“Don’t come near me.” – Neighbor
He could only drool outside the door earlier, but now he was able to sit inside for a comfortable meal. Fan Tong felt quite delighted, despite the fact that he was merely using borrowed money. At least his hunger problem was satisfied for the moment.
However, if he started his first meal with such delicious foods, how could Fan Tong go back to the “nasty and insubstantial” public rations tomorrow? The proverb, “” indeed possesses a certain truth. For the good of his future, Fan Tong mustn’t develop a picky taste. He should fill his stomach with the blander and more flavorless dishes.
Truth, my ass. That’s completely wrong.
Tastes and preferences… that sort of thing was already decided in his previous life, right? It’s not as if he never ate food before, so what he did now shouldn’t affect him anyway. Besides, he wasn’t a picky eater in his original world. Fan Tong gained a heap of money after his fortune-telling business began to thrive, but as a lazy person, he often ate quick meals thrown together from random ingredients. He made unhealthy grub, such as “Plum Powder Mixed with Potato Porridge,” “Water to Rice Ratio of 4 to 1 Porridge,” ”A Bunch of Mixed Canned Stuff Porridge,” and “Leftover from Yesterday and Has Been Sitting for 15 Hours Porridge”… There are too many of meals like these to mention.
Even though the examples he listed were all types of porridges, it didn’t mean he particularly enjoyed eating them. This was simply because those were all he could cook at his skill level, and what he did make all challenged the eater’s willpower. Despite eating that kind of stuff regularly, Fan Tong felt fine. Regardless, he still survived, didn’t he…? Fan Tong suddenly had an epiphany: he might’ve discovered his cause of death. No, right? It couldn’t have been from malnutrition… Could it?
In any case, Fan Tong still ordered the extra-large Restaurant Special. Investing in tasteless food would be such a waste.
“…Did you die from hunger?”
Luo Shi sat across from him and watched him eat. Maybe this was why the other customers were gossiping whilst stealing glances in their direction.
Fan Tong didn’t have to have superpowers or the like to help him discern the contents of the murmurs far away, but he could hear the people perfectly thanks to their seemingly nonexistent volume control.
“Lord Luo Shi. It’s Lord Luo Shi!”
“Lord Luo Shi is eating in such a plain store, and with a white tassel, too?!” …Perhaps from the shock of realization, the people spoke quite loudly.
Looks like Luo Shi eating here and bringing a companion is a very rare occasion. That doesn’t sound too off. Not only is he one of the five Attendants, he’s the Queen’s son as well. I guess he’s one of those high-classed types that naturally give off an aura of indifference.
But Luo Shi had answered his plea and lent him money for dinner. He’s still a good person, Fan Tong decided.
If that air of isolation stopped hanging about him, a pretty boy like him should be very popular, right?
“Yes, I don’t know how I died.”
After the “No” flipped to a “Yes,” a self-contradictory statement was born.
Luo Shi’s expression fell cold again. Despite Luo Shi’s icy gaze, Fan Tong remained focused on his food and continued to gobble up the food in his bowl.
Truthfully, there was no need for Luo Shi to follow along. He could’ve lent him the money and left. Was Luo Shi watching him to make sure Fan Tong used the money on food and not something else?
“Don’t you find your speech weird? Your actions don’t match the words you say either.”
Luo Shi raised his eyebrows in doubt. Fan Tong felt quite touched by Luo Shi’s mindfulness, but he still felt a bit uneasy towards him.
My actions don’t match my words…? Is he referring to how I screamed at the Driven Fire spell, despite saying the fireball didn’t hurt…?
Regardless, Fan Tong decided to explain, since Lou Shi went out of his way to ask. Hopefully, he could redeem himself and resolve some of the misunderstandings. Perhaps this would help prevent the image of him as a hypocritical airhead from sticking as well.
“The truth is, because a wicked and nice lady blessed me after I died, ninety percent of what I say is sensible. However, sometimes words get randomly switched around. I actually feel quite happy about this situation. I have always wanted to experience something so unlucky.”
After concluding his tale, Fan Tong went over what he had said and calculated the chances of his listener understanding him.
He probably didn’t understand it. He wouldn’t understand. There’s no way he could understand…
Although the main points of the story were explained, it was probably still too hard for him to dig them out from that jumble…
Luo Shi solemnly stared at Fan Tong with wide eyes, flustering him.
While Fan Tong wondered if Luo Shi would flip over the table from disbelief, he quickly took a few more bites of his food. Even if he were to die again, he must die full: having a last supper is very important.
But who’d have guessed that Luo Shi would suddenly burst out laughing?
“Fan Tong, what are you saying?”
From Luo Shi’s serious facial expressions, Fan Tong originally thought Luo Shi was a stern person, both inside and out. He didn’t think there were also times Luo Shi acted his age. This made him seem more human.
Looking around the restaurant, Fan Tong found the chattering crowds around them in awe as well. As for Luo Shi, he didn’t even notice the change in atmosphere and continued to stare at Fan Tong.
“Aren’t you being cute? I’ve never seen anyone say such nonsense so smoothly. What’d you do while you were still alive?”
It seemed Fan Tong’s explanation attempt has failed, but it did spark Luo Shi’s interest in him. That counts as a good thing, right?
Fan Tong took his last bite, finally gratifying his stomach.
Luo Shi put on an odd expression again.
“Don’t tell me you really starved to death because you had no money.”
How rude! After I was cursed, my business thrived and everyone called me a “Master”, you know!
Fan Tong is set on justifying himself. If this continued, his personality would be questioned, his profession wouldn’t be acknowledged, and his death would be the result of some horrible miscommunication. He found that unacceptable.
Although Fan Tong didn’t know how he died and had no evidence proving he didn’t starve to death, he couldn’t accept something as shameful as dying because he couldn’t earn money.
Luo Shi didn’t understand what Fan Tong was trying to do, but he asked the manager for paper and ink out of curiosity anyways. The language form in the Eastern City corresponded with Fan Tong’s back home. Since the word reversal syndrome doesn’t apply to writing, Fan Tong successfully articulated the details of his dilemma. He then passed the sheet to Luo Shi.
“Fan Tong, your calligraphy is quite beautiful.”
That first thought of Luo Shi’s left Fan Tong feeling a bit faint. No matter how nice his handwriting is, that’s not the point!
“But the things you wrote sound like lies…”
I wish they were lies too, both the fact that I got cursed and the sad reality that I came here.
Fan Tong continued to feel helpless with a grim face. What he wrote clarified his situation, but he had no substantial proof for support.
“My dad told me that lying is a virtue, so I’m usually dishonest.”
Every time he speaks and senses the beginnings of his words going haywire, Fan Tong wants to stop himself before they completely run out of control. Sadly, that blasted curse came with an extra function. It forces him to finish whatever he planned to say, unless an outside force interrupts.
“What kind of father is this? …Wait, you said you have a word reversal problem, so if that’s how it is… Why is it so hard to listen to you? I have to change and fix everything in my head.”
Luo Shi seemed to believe Fan Tong more or less, but what’s the use? Just on how bothersome it is to decipher Fan Tong’s words alone, Luo Shi might pretend he never heard the explanation. Beating Fan Tong up every time he says something wrong probably takes less effort.
If he always carried paper and ink with him, people wouldn’t get the wrong idea about him. However, he’s not mute! And more importantly, the curse would never go away if he doesn’t talk!
Fan Tong wasn’t sure if the criteria of “speaking ??? sentences correctly” still stands after death, but since the curse followed, that should be the same, right? Fortunately, he can practically live forever in this world. In that way, even he must speak three billion normal sentences consecutively, there is still hope.
“In any case, that tendency of yours is going to attract loads of unwanted trouble. I’ll look into your situation. After all, I brought you in.”
Fan Tong felt grateful for Luo Shi’s thoughtfulness. How great it was to straighten out the misunderstanding and make a new friend at the same time! Speaking of which, that was the first time he told someone about the curse. Even those who lived in his old world didn’t know of his problem.
On one hand, Fan Tong had no one close enough to say it to. On the other, he had to maintain his image as a fortune teller. It’s quite saddening.
Fan Tong was now writing a question on a second sheet of paper: May I call you Luo Shi rather than “Lord” Luo Shi?
“There’s nothing wrong with it, but why do you ask?”
Fan Tong attached an extra line on a blank space.
“No matter how I think about it, there’s a high chance I’d call you ‘Scumbag’ instead.”
With a happy belly, Fan Tong went home to rest. He wasn’t sleepy, however, and rolled in bed for a long while before he finally fell asleep. By the time he got up the next day, it was already well into the afternoon.
“What are you doing, Fan Tong?”
Even then, he’d only woken up when Mi Zhong came to visit and called for him. Only afterwards did Fan Tong realize he had missed his morning classes.
“Skipping on the first day! You’re merely a white tassel, you know. Do you really want to live your life eating government provisions?”
Fan Tong earnestly repented. The extra-large Restaurant Special last night had cost five strings, meaning he’d fallen in debt already. Accordingly, he should aim high and train hard to raise his rank, yet he had already blundered on the first day.
“It seems your neighbor next door didn’t go to class either… Really, what are you two thinking? Remember to attend the evening class, you hear me?”
Fan Tong nodded in acknowledgment. Regardless of his attitude, Mi Zhong spoke with good intentions.
Too bad he’s not attentive enough. If only he had brought a set of those city giveaways… It seemed Fan Tong will starve until nightfall again.
The classes on Shufa and Fuzhou intrigued Fan Tong, but unfortunately, he had slept through both of those. Only Wushu awaited him in the evening, and he had already partially given up on that.
Mi Zhong had only registered Fan Tong yesterday and so didn’t provide him with a tour of the school. Luckily, the layout of Wushu Xuan was quite simple and Fan Tong easily found his classroom. Without any further trouble, he reached his destination on time.
In reality, Fan Tong hoped that the path to class wasn’t so simple. After all, this was the class he repulsed from head to toe. He even wished for the teacher to just glance at him and say, “You have no talent and there is no hope for you. You can go home now.” But none of that happened, so he sat quietly and waited for class to begin.
One doesn’t have to rely on Wushu to make a name for himself! Fan Tong’s heart exclaimed. Despite thinking this, he didn’t have the guts to slam his hands down on the table, blurt out “I’m gonna ditch this shit,” and strut off. Since he was here already, he might as well listen and attend. It was only a couple lessons; what could happen even if he had no talent?
Mi Zhong mentioned before that his classmates would all be New Residents, given that the school segregates them from the Natural Residents. Scanning the room from corner to corner, Fan Tong saw only scatterings of white tassels. That made him rather nervous.
As for the root of this nervousness, it was because he couldn’t figure out how frequently Eastern City welcomed New Residents. If some classmates had remained here for a year or two already, didn’t that suggest a high possibility that people can be stuck with white tassels for years?
Deficient Wushu ability doesn’t matter, but dangling a white tassel for such a long time does. As long as Fan Tong possessed a white tassel, he’d have no salary. That was horrifying no matter how he looked at it.
Although Luo Shi didn’t charge him interest on the money he owed, it’s quite difficult to borrow again without clearing the previous balance. He needed to maintain good credit…
The Beginner’s Class was considerably spacious. As for seats, students sat atop cushions on the floor. The teacher assigned Fan Tong to sit in the back corner, a perfect spot for snoozing. No one filled the space next to him even when class began. That seat probably belonged to his neighbor, Fan Tong presumed. He didn’t think the guy would skip his evening class in addition to those morning ones he missed.
…Could there be some reason preventing him from leaving the house? Staying inside for so long, what has he been eating? His seclusion has been long enough for someone to die…
Fan Tong remembered what Mi Zhong told him, that some people can’t recover from the shock of death. That’s quite sad if it was true, Fan Tong imagined. Thinking along those lines, he decided to grab an extra portion from the street handouts tonight and drop in for a visit.
The teacher’s arrival signaled the beginning of class. Brilliant, even the teacher was a New Resident. Were Natural Residents an endangered species, or were these people really that set on segregating the two groups?
Based on his appearance, the man seemed to have died at quite an age. The fact that someone so old had died still holding grudges and regrets disturbed Fan Tong. The regrets of the elderly were abnormally unrelenting; he understood this from his various experiences during work. Those incidents made him especially sensitive towards the elderly.
Fan Tong peeked at the teacher’s tassel; it was blue. Weren’t blue tassels all over the streets? He thought teachers were supposed to be strong, at least red tassels… but what could he criticize, as he was still a white tassel. Nonetheless, the disparity between expectation and reality struck Fan Tong with disappointment. He quickly understood, though, why blue tassels could become teachers as soon as the teacher began to speak.
“To know Wushu, we must familiarize ourselves with its counterpart, weapons. Everyone, turn to page seventy-four and look at the section on weapons…”
This teacher was only here to teach the textbook. If he purely lectured book material, it didn’t matter whether his actual skills were sufficient or not.
In reality, those truly proficient in Wushu wouldn’t be teaching here in the first place.
Also, why page seventy-four? He’s not going to start from the beginning? So people who unfortunately didn’t die at the start of the semester are going to have to self-study? Someone, please, someone ask for fair treatment!
“Our classmate sitting in the back corner, where is your textbook?”
By the time Fan Tong noticed the problem, it had been exposed.
Despite his age, the teacher’s eyes remained sharp.
Fan Tong eyed the student sitting two seats from him with a puzzled look on his face. The other party eyed him back not understanding what was wrong.
“Are you a new student? The tour guide should’ve given you the textbooks. You don’t have them?”
Great, Mi Zhong had tricked him. Did he have to hold such a grudge towards Fan Tong for spelling his name one character off?
“If you don’t have your book, go stand on the side.”
Too lazy to trouble himself, the teacher penalized Fan Tong indifferently.
“Learning Wushu requires a sincere and resolute heart. You can’t simply ‘forget’ to bring your textbook purely because it’s heavy. Students, this is an example of a behavior we must not follow. Alright, let’s look at page seventy-four.”
He didn’t even have the textbook. Where did the teacher’s absurd conclusion come from? Fan Tong didn’t want to argue; talking back to a teacher is never wise. He’d just obediently take his punishment.
“Equally renowned, Queen Xiying’s Lunar Crescent Blade –Skies and Emperor Englar’s Four Stringed Sword–Tian Luo Yan, are both considered godly artifacts . These weapons were passed down the generations and are exclusive to each city’s ruler. They originated from the same source as the Eastern City’s Aegis, Qian Huan Hua, and the Western City’s Lunar Gown, Aifroa. With the support of these weapons and armors, the rulers who inherited them all possessed great combat abilities…”
Listening to the lesson wasn’t particularly difficult, but Fan Tong found it somewhat tiring to continue standing. He thought it alright though, since the topic was rather interesting.
But why did the Eastern City’s weapons seem to sound Western, while the other city’s weapons seemed to sound Eastern… or was that his imagination?
“The Lunar Crescent Blade–Skies is renowned for its sharp edge. Likewise, Tian Luo Yan is known for its four cords that encompass four different daunting abilities.”
Fan Tong found the current subject fascinating, but the provided information was much too vague.
Was the data incomplete? The teacher had even said, “Chen Yue was originally a lake, and it came with matching godly artifacts, but we don’t know what they are.” For the teacher to dare to teach in such a manner, his level of professionalism deserved some questioning…
Fan Tong revised his inner assessment of the teacher. He wasn’t a teacher that taught the textbook. He was only here to recite it.
“Well then, I hope you will all soon discover weapons that suit each of you. Our class today concludes here.”
Although finally relieved from his punishment, Fan Tong found yet another Wushu class lying ahead.
It was the last class of the day, but it was one that involved hands-on combat. With both legs still numb from standing, Fan Tong couldn’t rest in his next lesson either. Is this what people call a string of bad luck? He wondered.
Once class began, Fan Tong grasped the true meaning of “a string of bad luck”.
The teacher, dangling a crimson red tassel, was a sub-level stronger than Luo Shi. Noticing a new face in class, the man’s eyes lit up with excitement– as though he had found a new prey. He moved towards Fan Tong and spoke compassionately.
“We have a new student today! There’s no need for new students to attend their first class. Only, they must carry out a certain procedure.”
Did that mean he could leave early and go home? Fan Tong wondered. But in keeping with his luck up until now, that sounded a little too optimistic. Besides, the smiles of his classmates looked a bit… odd.
“You see, to know Wushu, we must conquer our fears of pain and death. That’s why, all new students, on their first day of class, must die.”
By the time the teacher finished those last words and smiled, Fan Tong was utterly dumbfounded.
“Students, have you been waiting long? Alright, then: get ready, get set, go!”
I died two times already! And what’s with you stirring up the atmosphere?
Under the hands of students who’d all undergone the same initiation ceremony, of course there was no way Fan Tong could crawl back out alive.
The students assaulted him one after another until they finally killed him. In this instant, Fan Tong deemed every New Resident as a resentful spirit sated only by acts of brutality.
He couldn’t even determine which attacks they had used! Fan Tong honestly wanted to shout, but he’d already been sent towards the Pond to revive.
Not having to see the final product of his corpse mildly comforted Fan Tong. If he had become meat putty, his appetite for dinner would have disappeared.
In the end, he had used up his three freebies just like that. While waiting for his body to regenerate and float to the surface, Fan Tong felt calmer than he thought he’d be.
Yeah right! How can I be calm? What if the purpose of those freebies were for each of the schools to murder me? By the time I finish my Shufa and Fuzhou classes, I’ll owe two hundred strings!
Fan Tong’s body fully reformed while he worried about this and that. He then had to face his next problem: lack of oxygen. It was a life-threatening gamble. He held his breath until he finally reached water’s surface, only to find that he was nowhere near shore.
Didn’t the Wushu Xuan people send anyone to retrieve Fan Tong after killing him?
Fan Tong struggled, drinking in some mouthfuls of water before advancing a couple of meters.
No, that joke from earlier can’t be coming true, can it? He didn’t want to fill the pond with his dead bodies! …Not to mention the cost—
In a world where dying is a dime a dozen, Fan Tong shifted his priorities to money.
Someone, help! Help—Help—!
Fan Tong wholeheartedly regretted not going to the Fuzhou class in the morning. If he went, he might’ve learned how to use that communication charm to call for a lifeline.
Stranded alone and powerless to seek help, Fan Tong would soon choke, drown, and die with his limited endurance.
After that happened, Fan Tong drowned twice more before finally realizing the solution to long distance swimming. With much effort, he clambered to shore. Gawking at the carcasses he left behind, he felt traumatized with one side of his emotions, and shed dry tears on the other…
Dying already feels horrible, but now he has to experience pain when reviving, too?
Isn’t there a quick way to make some big bucks?… Even if I must betray my body, I don’t mind—
Reeling out the water, he feared that his next move was to ask for help in his birthday suit. Thankfully, the government wasn’t so inhumane as to leave him there. Despite the design flaw with the Pond being overly extensive and practically bottomless, the city still decorated the Pond’s exit with springtime clothing. In other words, Fan Tong only had to walk stark naked for a short distance, from the shore to the exit. Realizing that, Fan Tong breathed a sigh of relief.
There were only three outfits hanging on the rack. How often do they restock? If the third person here had no conscience whatsoever, the next person would be so unlucky!
Fan Tong left the idea after a few more thoughts. It was all right as long as he was not that unlucky person. He was unlucky enough today as it was. Compared to the other things that had happened today, walking around naked now didn’t seem that big a deal.
Noticing the time, Fan Tong admitted there was one good thing from this death. If he had died again, he would’ve missed the evening food handouts. He’d make it right on time if he set off then. That was probably the only thing worth getting excited over all day. One must find something to comfort himself with, Fan Tong thought, to convince himself that he hadn’t reached the pits just yet.
A long line had already fashioned across the streets when Fan Tong arrived. It cleared quite quickly, and thankfully, nothing like “I’m deeply sorry, but we passed out the last portion to the person before you” happened, so he received his share after a short wait. He was even able to grab a second helping for his neighbor along the way.
Speaking of which, weren’t they doing things too casually? They didn’t even ask for an I.D. when I asked to get another portion for someone else. Didn’t that mean others can happily lie and get however much they want? Or is it because this food is so tasteless that it’s not missed however much was given away?
Fan Tong cultivated these ideas in his head while he ate at home.
The food wasn’t bad in that the cooks prepared them horribly, but more so because the ingredients were bad and no flavoring was added. Even if the chef’s technique was amazing, the final product wouldn’t get very far. They gave out food for one sole purpose: filling the stomach. Fan Tong felt like he was an animal being raised on a farm.
After he filled his stomach, it was time for Fan Tong to deliver the other serving to his neighbor and have a chat with him. He bagged the food and knocked on the doors adjoining his.
He knocked once. No reaction. He knocked again. Still no reaction.
How odd. There had been no sounds coming from the room for the past two days, but the tour guide definitely said someone lived here!
“Is no one here?”
When he said that, Fan Tong was appreciating the similar meanings between “Is anyone here?” and “Is no one here?” A soft but unclear voice travelled out past the door as soon after he posed the question.
The other person simply replied and gave no indications to open the doors for Fan Tong.
“…What is it?”
“I’m your neighbor. I noticed you haven’t come out to eat at all, so I wanted to give you something.”
Every time he said a correct sentence, Fan Tong felt grateful, yet perplexed at the same time. It was wonderful that he spoke properly, but as always, it only happened for petty matters, which made him wonder if he should laugh or cry.
“Thank you. You can leave it at the door.”
The voice was clearer now. The person sounded very young, a young boy perhaps. The manner of speech was polite, but also gave an aloof sort of feeling.
This neighbor of his didn’t reject the food, nor did he step out to receive it. He only told Fan Tong to leave it at the door. It seems that he dislikes contact with other people.
“You’re not coming out to take it?”
“No… It’s a bit inconvenient for me right now… I’m truly sorry. I know this is rude of me, but thank you for your kindness.”
From his manners, he should be a well-behaved child who had received proper education. As for what was inconveniencing the boy, Fan Tong had no idea.
Disabled? Not feeling well? Too ugly?
Fan Tong considered some thoughts in the next couple of moments after the encounter. If people had missing arms and legs during their previous life, are they still be limbless after coming here? Or do they grow new ones?
He hadn’t even seen the person’s face, and they couldn’t even be considered as acquaintances. So naturally, Fan Tong didn’t intend to intrude on his neighbor’s privacy. In turn, he placed the food down and asked a few more questions before leaving.
“I heard that you haven’t attended school since the year started. Are you not going tomorrow?”
He wanted to ask if he was going to school tomorrow, but as long as it made sense.
“Ah? …A year? School?”
It appeared that what Fan Tong had said either surprised or shocked the youth. Hearing his reaction, Fan Tong felt somewhat sorry for him.
Was his death so traumatizing that he couldn’t remember anything the tour guide said? He’s only a child. It must have been hard on him.
“White tassels are truly good, no, I meant they’re very good. No, very bad. You can only raise your status if you don’t go to school… I mean, you need to go to school. Since you’re already here, why don’t you just give up on life? Please ignore what I just said. I’m saying, why don’t we go to school together tomorrow?”
He was hoping that the youth might consider stepping out of his house if he had a companion. Unfortunately, the jumbling characteristic of his words sounded more and more foreign as he spoke. Though the last part finished all right, he was still fairly worried about whether the boy understood him or not.
He probably didn’t.
“Anyways, I’ll come pick you up tomorrow. Don’t refuse.”
…He originally planned to say “Please consider it.” Isn’t changing that into “Don’t refuse” stretching it a bit?
“Okay. I understand. Thank you.”
The other party knew he invited him with good intentions. Great! Half his goal for this voyage had been passably fulfilled. He only had one last thing to ask.
“What’s your name?”
He thought this was an easy question, but the person remained silent for a long time. Fan Tong was ready to leave when he heard the youth’s subdued response.
“Yue Tui. Call me Yue Tui.”
A unique name as well, but still better than something like Mi Chong.
The boy didn’t ask for Fan Tong’s name after replying and fell silent again, as though he didn’t even possess an ounce of interest. Fan Tong couldn’t determine if his socializing attempt was a success or a failure.
Networking. Fan Tong found it essential.
If one remained a loner, not only would he find it hard to survive in society, but would also have problems being lonely and bored. If one had no family, one must at least have friends. Enemies could be omitted, since they’re only there to lower the chances of survival.
He didn’t manage his relationships properly in the old world… or rather, his network was overly complex. Too many people went in and out of his store…
Just by seeing how he ate “Plum Powder Mixed with Potato Porridge,” “Water to Rice Ratio of 4 to 1 Porridge,” “A Bunch of Mixed Canned Stuff Porridge,” and “Leftover from Yesterday and Has Been Sitting for 15 Hours Porridge,” for years without anyone stopping him, one can guess the quality of his social life.
I want friends! I want companions! I want people to do things with! I want to complain to someone about my curse!
Fan Tong chanted the slogan in his mind. He didn’t have the confidence to validate Luo Shi as a friend yet. As for Mi Zhong… he’d reconsider him after Mi Zhong brings back the textbooks and apologizes.
He felt a connection between him and his neighbor. Though they hadn’t gotten closer to one another yet, but as they’re both white tassels, it felt that they could get along with little difficulty. Not to mention, they might be roommates soon. A friend betters a stranger or an enemy any day.
He heard that this neighbor had holed up in his room since arriving and hadn’t gotten in contact with anyone or anything in the Eastern City. Does this mean he still had those three free revivals? Well, if he stayed in his room the entire time, he shouldn’t have encountered any danger.
Fan Tong felt both envious of and sad for Yue Tui upon thinking this.
Wait. He might’ve been that poor guy who died from the city sign falling on him. That might have traumatized him, making him unable to leave the house. Something like that happening isn’t too odd.
Plus, he never leaves to get food. What if he starves and dies, but just comes right back after reviving? Then that cycle repeats and he’s actually bombarded with debt right now!
Understanding the discourtesy of guessing someone else’s life, Fan Tong capped his thoughts and promptly went to bed.
The next morning, before Fan Tong was awake, Mi Zhong visited.
“Fan Tong–! I can’t believe I forgot to give you the textbooks yesterday! I’m so sorry!”
With Mi Zhong’s extravagant hollering barging into his home, Fan Tong woke with shock. He was ready to forgive Mi Zhong seeing his frantic manner, but when he noticed Mi Zhong pulling not only textbooks for Wushu Xuan, but for Shufa Xuan and Fuzhou Xuan as well, he wanted to give him a good beating.
He actually forgot all the textbooks–! If it wasn’t for the fact that he overslept and missed his Shufa and Fuzhou classes, then wouldn’t he have had been in serious trouble?
“Fan Tong, how was class yesterday? You only died once during the hands-on combat class, right?”
Fan Tong’s expression twisted into a scowl.
“You knew they’d kill me and yet you didn’t tell me…”
If he had said something wrong, he’d definitely destroy the presence of his anger. How nice of the curse to not prank him now.
“This is custom! This is tradition! Everyone who attends class must die, plus–“
Mi Zhong extended that last note and enthusiastically continued.
“I died too! How can I let anyone else get away with it.”
It seemed that that was his main point.
“But the problem is, I know how to swim, so I drowned and died two more times!”
“You know how to swim, yet you still drowned? You’re amazing.”
“Alright! I’ve given you the textbooks now, so quickly learn how to communicate using Fuzhou. Find me when you can. I need to go to my classes now…”
“Wait, does the person next door have his books?”
“Hm? He should’ve gotten them when he first arrived, right? It depends where he put them.”
Sigh, so he must use his broken speech system and somehow guide Yue Tui into finding his textbooks?
“Be good and go to school. Strengthen your connections with the other classmates. The best is that you find yourself a backer. Making the teacher like you works too.”
Mi Zhong patted Fan Tong’s shoulders, delivering the suggestion somewhat heedlessly.
I understand this without you telling me, Fan Tong thought. But with that mouth of his, it’d be a bit difficult to obtain much positive result.
Just a bit? Is it really just a bit?
“I’ll be leaving now. Don’t be late…”
“What is it?”
“I don’t have to live for the Shufa and Fuzhou classes too, do I?”
After dying, he would live again in the Pond. The reversed sentence isn’t wrong either.
“Don’t worry. Only the Wushu Xuan is that barbaric… But after our conversation earlier, haven’t you realized that even if you do have to die, I wouldn’t tell you?”
Fan Tong secretly decided. If he performed well in school, he’d definitely challenge Mi Zhong before leaving the white tassel rank.
There was still time to explore and probe the campus before the beginning of class. Going after breakfast would make perfect timing, but for food like that, he didn’t mind missing a meal or two–––he found eating that food three times a day overboard. So he studied his textbooks for a bit, and then walked over to Yue Tui’s room. There was still plenty of time.
“Ah, sorry, could you wait for me a little longer? I’m not ready…”
The youth apologized soon after Fan Tong knocked on the door. It wasn’t clear what he was still getting ready for.
If he were a girl putting on makeup, waiting a couple minutes wouldn’t be a problem, but since he’s a boy… Fan Tong did his fair share of thinking and criticizing, but he ultimately remained waiting outside.
A minute passed. Five minutes passed. It seemed as though ten had passed as well.
Just what is he doing?…
“Yue Tui, are you not ready?”
“…Sorry, I encountered some problems.”
The boy’s voice sounded disheartened, even a bit despondent. Fan Tong couldn’t help wondering what problem someone can have so early in the morning, at home.
Weak knees and can’t get out of bed? Too attached to home?
“Can’t I help you with it?”
As long as the reversed sentence reasonably matched his intention, Fan Tong didn’t mind.
“I don’t really understand how to wear these clothes…”
Fan Tong felt a bit speechless at the sudden notice.
“As for clothes, can’t you just casually strip them? Why are you taking this so seriously?…”
Changing “casually wear them” into “casually strip them”… That sounded a bit perverted.
“No, how can I go out in messy attire? That’s not right.”
The youth appeared abnormally stubborn about the issue. The problem is, though, if Fan Tong let him continue as is, neither of them would make it to school.
Why couldn’t he wear the clothes? Could he be a young master of sorts in his previous life, so his servants dressed him every day? But for something as simple as putting on clothes, shouldn’t anyone have the common sense to do that?
“Yue Tui, I’m coming in.”
The youth probably wanted to stop Fan Tong, but was too slow, so he only had time to make a short sound. As such, he decided to speak no further. Upon coming in, Fan Tong finally saw his neighbor’s appearance, and was dazed for a few seconds as a result.
The boy actually had put on the clothes already, but was holding onto a belt and buckle-like object, not knowing what to do. Seeing Fan Tong, he smiled, embarrassed.
What dazed Fan Tong wasn’t Yue Tui’s picturesque features or his unexpectedly young age. He was dazed by the youth’s golden hair and sky blue eyes.
He heard that both cities battled to snatch New Residents, but this was the first time in the Eastern City that he saw a Westerner.
Yue Tui was a tad older than Luo Shi. Luo Shi was fourteen, and he wouldn’t be older than fifteen or sixteen. The fact dampened Fan Tong’s spirits. A young, well-bred, and well-educated boy died at such an age, and even fit Chen Yue’s criteria to come here. Just what had happened to him?
“Excuse me, but could you tell me where do I wear this?”Yue Tui asked. Without the door acting as a barrier, his voice was much clearer. Fan Tong felt the gods were unfair when they created humans. Some people seem to have everything: a nice face, a nice aura, and a nice voice.
“I tie it around my waist?”
Fan Tong replied with his voice out of habit again, which caused Yue Tui, who was about to tie it, to stop in his tracks.
“No? Then where do I wear it?”
Fan Tong felt he was messing with the boy with his responses. Yu Tui also put on a troubled expression, unsure of what to say.
Continuing the misunderstanding would be fruitless, but thankfully, Fan Tong had the explanation note he’d written for Luo Shi with him. He pulled out the piece of paper and handed it to Yue Tui. Wondering what it was for, Yue Tui accepted the note, but his expression remained troubled after seeing its contents.
“I’m… not familiar with the written characters of the Eastern City. I don’t really understand…”
Fan Tong should’ve known written communication wouldn’t work for a Westerner… He heard that spoken words were understood by everyone due to Chen Yue’s power. As for his writing style, the script he used just so happened to match the city’s…
Then what language does Yue Tui use? English? He couldn’t be from the same world as me, right?
Speaking in English coupled with his word reversal syndrome was asking too much from him. At his English level, he’d translate “How are you” into “Why is it you?”, and “How old are you?” into “Why is it always you?” Why did that sound like a certain he heard before? At that point, he didn’t even get what was so funny about it.
“You can just wear it the way I am.”
“Ah… Thank you.”
Yue Tui seemed to be a well-mannered person. He didn’t question what the previous responses were about and went on to fix his clothing.
Fan Tong pointed at his own textbooks to remind Yue Tui to bring them. Seeing Yue Tui’s expression, he presumed the boy had left the books somewhere and forgot about them.
“Even if I find them, I won’t be able to read them.”
Yue Tui sounded mildly crestfallen saying this.
“But if you don’t bring them, you’ll be forced to sit as punishment.”
What does being “forced to sit as punishment” even mean? To think the curse had the nerve to say something so absurd…
“That’s alright. I’ll keep trying. I should ask to see if there’s a language class for the Eastern City.”
If he wants to learn the language, that’s a sign he’s starting to take control of his life and live anew, right?
That’s a good outcome. After Fan Tong made an effort to correctly ask Yue Tui whether he wanted breakfast, Fan Tong found that the youth also found the rations unpalatable from his disgusted facial expression. They then left the house together and strode towards the school campus.
They stood under dim indoor lighting earlier, but now that they were under sun, Fan Tong especially noticed Yue Tui’s radiance.
This definitely wasn’t a biased perception. Numerous pedestrians turned their heads to look at Yue Tui. Fan Tong counted to himself: since the beginning of their walk until now, twenty-eight turned out of the thirty they had passed by. That’s a head-turning rate of over ninety percent!
Although also a youth with delicate features, Yue Tui felt vastly different from Luo Shi. Fan Tong couldn’t determine where exactly they differed, but from that solemn vibe Yue Tui subconsciously emitted while he walked quietly, Fan Tong wouldn’t think he was so young if not for his yet adolescent appearance.
Due to his social position, Luo Shi forced himself to mature early, but that was still a different feeling.
“Yue Tui, how old are you?”
“Fifteen, almost sixteen.”
Only after replying was Yue Tui reminded of something.
“I forgot to ask you for your name…”
“I’m Fan Tong.”
“Nice to meet you, Fan Tong.”
He certainly wasn’t familiar with the language. He didn’t link Fan Tong’s name with anything else .
They entered the campus doors and asked a couple of quick questions to the people inside. They all replied similarly. Since Yue Tui was also a white tassel, it was fine if he attended the same classes as Fan Tong. As for language classes, one person said the school usually passes out books for self-studying. If he had any problems, he could ask his friends around campus.
It’s as if the city left you stranded after grabbing you here. But Yue Tui said nothing and seemed to accept the arrangement, so Fan Tong didn’t have any further opinions.
Fan Tong only remembered to check the timetable right before entering the classroom. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets while he read it. The schedule for the day had changed. The first class today was that deadly Wushu combat class.
And by deadly, he wasn’t exaggerating. It was an accurate depiction. Undeniably, Fan Tong had died, and today, Yue Tui was the new student. If he brought him in now, chances are he wouldn’t survive.
“Uhm, Yue Tui. Why don’t you skip this first class? I mean, let’s go to Wushu class.”
If he didn’t attend class today, he’d still be a newcomer tomorrow. The best bet was to give up on the subject altogether, but with that second sentence flipped, Yue Tui couldn’t understand what Fan Tong meant.
“…? Of course we’re going to class.”
“No, what I meant to say is, the students and teachers are all very friendly. You’ll die if you go in.”
His words became more disarrayed as he became progressively nervous. Friendly? Really? Changing the adjective to this term irritated him.
“…? Fan Tong, I really don’t understand what you’re try to get at.”
This is my fault. No need for you to apologize. The important part is that you don’t step into that room. I’m not as heartless as Mi Zhong. I don’t have a fetish of seeing a bishounen getting XXX’ed to his death!
“Anyways, go to class!”
“Okay. I know. The classroom is this one, right?”
Fan Tong despaired at his uselessness.
Should he outright drag Yue Tui away? He didn’t want to attend class either, so it’d be two birds with one stone.
“Oh hey–– We have a new student again! Come in.”
Unfortunately, the beast of a teacher with a human façade had already opened the door. He shined a harmless smile at Yue Tui, luring him into his trap. Fan Tong could only follow behind as Yue Tui walked in. His scalp tingled as he imagined what would happen next.
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
It seems that many things have happened just in these few days since I’ve arrived.
Hmmm– I became a debtor right after becoming a member of the city. With the New Residents in debt, they can send us to do petty jobs here and there. The government seems to be exercising the system to generate a free labor force.
Although I deftly uncovered the Eastern City’s scheme, I still can’t do much about it. I see darkness in my future. Not to mention, I’m quite worried about how painful a rebirth with two-hundred strings of debt would be… Can I borrow two hundred from Luo Shi again? But I didn’t even return those five yet. Asking for forty times as much all of a sudden, he might blow up at me…
Ah, I’m still unfamiliar with everything in the city. The neighbor who I can hang out with seems to know even less. And that tour guide who does know his way around doesn’t look very trustworthy. Who can I depend on?
I need someone to bring me clothes when I climb out of the Pond at least!
I’d do the same! I’ll also haul the person out when they die! I need to train my boat-rowing skills first… but I’m sincere! Even if I rowed until the boat toppled over, I’d drown with the guy! That’s friendship!
If I can, I really don’t want to leave this lame job to Luo Shi… He’s still one of the five Attendants and is probably quite busy. Plus, he’s a Natural Resident, so he won’t die and can’t die. He won’t float back up from the waters if he did, and I won’t have the chance to repay him or salvage him with my boat. I’d owe him more and more. In the end, how could I compensate him?
…Hmm. Crafting all these thoughts, am I just trying to avoid thinking about what’s going to happen next?
Yue Tui, should I pray for you? Is it too late to learn how to row a boat now?
Next: Chapter 3: Having a White Tassel Doesn’t Mean I’m Weak.
Previous: Chapter 1: Deadman Unconfirmed
Return: Main Page
Proofreader: Pinkbarracuda, sae x
In this case, it’d also be forcing the residents to stop dying and work hard. Who’d want more debt on their tab?
Here’s the original sentence for those who understand Chinese: 他的英文程度大概是停留在會把「How are you」翻成怎麼是你，把「How old are you」翻成怎麼老是你的程度。