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Chapter 32: Slice of Life


After the selection, light inside the glass pillar converged and what finally appeared was a pair of what looked like fairly old-fashioned football shoes.

【Name: Jazz Dance】

【Type: Armor】

【Grade: Superior】

【Defense: Weak】

【Attributes: None】

【Special Effect: Increases running speed limit and greatly reduces Stamina consumed during long periods of walking or running】

【Remarks: This pair of athletic shoes belonged to an unmatched wing forward. He was a first generation European football player, an outstanding dribble master. During his more than thirty year long career, unexpectedly, he had never been given a red card. Another athlete who was known as the King of Football gave this evaluation—— “When it comes to kicking balls, he’s the one whom we all should learn from.”】

“This thing is not bad… it also has no equip prerequisite,” Feng Bujue read aloud. “Even if you were to obtain better foot armor, these would still sell for a good price.”

When he equipped these shoes he heard the System Notification:【When equipment is placed in positions with a “fashion component”, you can select the preferred appearance in the menu】

Feng Bujue checked out this function. The idea behind this function was to allow the player to select between the “System’s default athletic shoes skins” or “display the equipped shoes’ appearance”.

But because there was no shopping mall during the closed beta stage, more people opted to display their equipment. This choice was also a form of vanity; people always like to show a bit of the things they have and that others don’t: the envious, jealous, and hateful glares of others could bring about a certain degree of satisfaction.

After tidying up the space, Feng Bujue disconnected from the mind bridge.

Upon exiting the Game Cabin, Feng Bujue found that about two hours of real time had passed as well. It was now dark outside, the sound of wind whistled by the window, and the stars in the city sky were hidden. (But Feng Bujue hardly went stargazing)

The young people in the big cities rarely went to sleep before midnight, even if they had to rise early the next day. They were willing to doze off in the crowded subways and cramped buses at six in the morning, rather than sacrifice what they considered to be personal time after work. On the extreme was Feng Bujue, he was more the nocturnal type. He woke up every day at noon, and only went to sleep at night when it was almost four. He believed that the wee hours of the night were the times he was most inspired.

But today, even though there were still two to three hours left until midnight, Feng Bujue was struck by the sudden desire to create. He brewed a whole pot of coffee, sat in front of his computer, and began to tap away on his keyboard.[1]

His pen name was “Bujue”, and the serialized fiction he was working on for the magazine publisher was called《The Second-rate Detective and the Cat》. Actually, he originally just wanted to write a story about a first-rate detective, but at the beginning of that year, the novel business needed a comedy infusion. Just like how many manhua/s use female characters to appeal to the eyes, the novel industry also needs to abide by the market trends. No matter how many years have passed, the people’s attitude for hunting novelties and chasing women will forever triumph.

Previously when Feng Bujue was destitute and dejected, he also entertained the idea of writing a few novels about chasing women. As the kind of guy who is a self-proclaimed artist, he could easily think of a few other unlucky artists whom he could sympathize with. For example, Miller (A French painter who, for a living, was forced to use sketches to exchange for shoes to wear, use oil paintings to exchange for places to sleep, and also painted some erotic works in order to cater to the tastes of the bourgeoisie) or Titian (Alright, this one was just out of interest).

In short, Feng Bujue still compromised and wrote some comedy. This way he’d write a comedy on what he liked: an expert detective. This setup of the story《The Second-rate Detective and the Cat》was just to split up the leading role into two characters, that’s all. Originally the story’s main character was supposed to be a shrewd-minded jerk, but now he’s a kindhearted pushover but capable second-rate detective. However, one day he discovered his cat could speak, but only he could understand the cat. Furthermore, the cat coincidentally possessed a god-like deductive ability…

The editor from the magazine publisher even praised Feng Bujue, saying this arrangement was well executed. The main character and the cat’s funny synergy diluted the whole bleak air of detective work. Feng Bujue also slowly discovered the merits of this kind of writing: first, it was able lighten the tension in the plot; second, it could increase the word-count…

Apart from this serialization, Feng Bujue was also writing a lengthy narrative which was exactly what he wanted to originally write: unfettered by consumer desires, the kind published novel that will let him make some real money. Initially, that novel’s creative process completely sunk into a bottleneck and went uncontinued and unwritten for a month. But tonight, Feng Bujue found inspiration again and started to continue to expound on that narrative called《Nightmare at Both Ends》.

…………

After one night of silence in the early morning before the sky was clear, Feng Bujue saved the file and finally stood from his computer desk. He stretched his body, yawned and glanced at the time; it was already 4:40. Feng Bujue only then remembered that yesterday was Qingming Festival(Tomb Sweeping Festival)… The Dream Corp. specifically chose a day like this to start the Thriller Paradise’s closed beta. The choice to release a terrifying online-game on such a date could also be considered to be another publicity stunt.

Since it’s already this time of day, the nearby breakfast vendors should be out and set up too. Feng Bujue’s mind was still full of all kinds of story plots, inexhaustible. But he decided to go out and eat something then come back to sleep.

He grabbed his key and some change (he only had change left) then when downstairs. Fifteen minutes later he’d already grabbed some scallion pancake and Chinese cruller and was on his way home.

When he returned to his apartment complex, he could already see some elderly residents coming out one after another to engage in morning exercise or to head to the community hospital and be the first to line up in the morning. Feng Bujue rarely had any contact with his neighbors during this time period; usually, he’d be in the middle of going to sleep. For him, the day started in the afternoon.

“Meow~” On the roadside, there was a black and white tuxedo cat that let out a cry when he’d passed in front of its view.

Feng Bujue stopped his footsteps, turned to face the cat for several seconds, and confirmed that yep… its gaze was fixed on the breakfast in his hand.

“Look here, you…” Feng Bujue went up to the cat and crouched down. He saw the stray cat had no collar and said softly, “Can you eat deep fried flour?”

“Meow.” This cat seemed completely unafraid of strangers. This time the cry seemed to answer “Yes”.

“Even I only had noodles and broth to eat these past few days,” Feng Bujue spoke while he tore off a small piece of scallion pancake and held it next to the cat’s mouth. “This greasy thing was the only thing I could buy using the last of my money.”

The cat stretched its head forward a little and sniffed a bit at the food Feng Bujue held out. Soon after, it ate that piece of scallion pancake in one bite, licked its mouth, then “meowed”. Seemed like this one bite still wasn’t enough.

Feng Bujue tore off another chunk of pancake, “Your appearance is completely not adorable; looks like you’re not even some rare breed. To go so far as to dare directly face an unfamiliar human to ask for food and even want more…” He sneered while he habitually tore off a piece of scallion pancake and quickly held it out, “Go earnestly rummage through a garbage bin, ah bástãrd!”

Speaking of garbage cans, Feng Bujue raised his head to glance at the three waste sorting bins in front of the apartment building. Those four-sided cup-bottomed garbage cans were quite tall, at about one meter, wide on top and narrower at the bottom. If the cat jumped in to rummage for stuff, it would have to take advantage of when the garbage bins were fairly full. Otherwise, it was possible that once it jumped in, it would not be able to climb back out. If by chance it was dumped altogether into the garbage truck, then it would basically end up a dead cat.

“Hah…” Feng Bujue let out a sigh and straightforwardly tore half of the scallion pancake to little bits. He spread it across his palm and stretched it towards the cat, “Actually, you stray cats don’t have it easy either. I heard that during the winter, right in our neighborhood, a cat hid itself under a car and pressed itself against the engine to warm itself with the residual heat. In the morning, after the car owner unknowingly started the engine, it got crushed to death inside.” He petted the little cat’s head. Some words he was more willing to say to a cat; words he’d be unable to say to a human, “You stray cats typically will only live for three years. As for me, who knows when I might suddenly die to this unknown mental disease. We were brought together today by fate…” He took the remaining half of the scallion pancake bit a mouthful and carried on speaking vaguely, “…For us to share the same pancake, who knows, we might end up as brothers in the next life…”

“Lil’ Feng, ah. Is that you?” A familiar voice came from behind.

Feng Bujue turned his head around to see his landlady auntie. Auntie was surnamed Liu and had already been retired for five years. Her husband was surnamed He and was a retired veteran officer. Auntie Liu normally spoke very bluntly, but in fact, her character was pretty good.

Auntie Liu and Feng Bujue lived in the same building. She had three apartments suites under her name. One suite was on the other side of the neighborhood and was also rented out. As for the other two suites in this building, because Auntie Liu suspected the thirteenth floor to be unlucky, she lived on the eighth floor. The other space was under long-term lease to Feng Bujue.

“Ah, it’s really you. I was worried I recognized the wrong person.” Auntie Liu carried a basket in her hands; she must’ve just come back from the food market, she continued “The sun must’ve really risen from the west today if you came downstairs so early in the morning.” Just as her line of sight changed to land on the little cat, the conversation change over as well, “You know Lil’ Feng, ah, Auntie isn’t scolding you, but why are you feeding a stray? You feed it once today, tomorrow five or six will come out and camp here. Isn’t this just causing trouble for other neighbors?”

“Makes sense,” Feng Bujue thought for a few seconds and replied, “Seems like there’s only one way about this…” He held his breakfast in one hand and carried the dirty stray in the other, “bring it back home to raise.”

Auntie Liu was dumbfounded, “Boy, you really only do what you want, hah. Did you even think to ask me yet?”

“You see… dogs are allowed to be raised in our neighborhood. This housecat won’t even go outside…” Feng Bujue squeezed out a smile, trying to be cute.

“You really want to raise it?” Auntie Liu was originally under the impression that Feng Bujue was only blowing hot air. Suddenly her demeanor changed slightly. She studied Feng Bujue’s face, then studied the cat’s face, “Hey… now that I look, you two do look really alike.” Her gaze lowered a little more, “The cat’s even a tom.”[2]

The corner of Feng Bujue’s mouth twitched, “Auntie, your word phrasing ‘even’ has problems… I am male(human)…”

“Auntie isn’t going to bicker over words with you. You’re a learned person, I am not.” Auntie Liu continued, “Speak clearly first. You can raise this cat if you really want to, but that nest of yours is messy enough already. Raising a cat means you need to be even more aware of hygiene. Our building has mostly elderly people, if anyone comes looking for me about some smell coming from your place…”

“Then I’ll cook and eat it.” quipped Feng Bujue.

“Meow!” It seemed as if the small tuxedo cat could understand their words and interjected after Feng Bujue with a dissatisfied cry.

“Cook your ass! Even if I could cook you, you mustn’t cook it.” Auntie half-strided, half-walked while saying, “Come, come…”

“Where are we going?” asked Feng Bujue.

“To the neighborhood pet clinic to get it a vaccination shot.” Auntie Liu said, “What are you going to do if it has FPV?”

“Uh…” Feng Bujue hesitated for a few seconds, “It’s like this… recently, my cash…”

“Boy, has there ever been a time when your cash wasn’t tight?” Auntie Liu cut herself off, “Okay, okay, Auntie will help pay for you first. Just pay it back together when you pay your rent, alright.” Just as she started to stride away again, she stopped and tsked, “See how scatterbrained I am, let me go upstairs first to put away the groceries.”

…………

When Feng Bujue finally returned home, it was already seven in the morning. He didn’t just bring back a cat, he also brought back a sandbox, cat food, plastic bowls and toys, and so on: a whole pile of stuff…

I think in the next life we shouldn’t become brothers anymore.” Feng Bujue raise the small tuxedo cat up to his eye level, “Instead, you should reincarnate into a woman and use your body to pay me back for my kindness, alright.”

“Meow.” The small tuxedo cat languidly let out a yawn. It seemed to be throwing Feng Bujue an expression of disdain.

While Feng Bujue began to tidy up the stuff, he turned on his answering machine. The sound recording played, “You have, 1, message.”

A beep came after the monotone voice, and soon after Wang Tanzhi’s voice sounded, “Jue Bro, you’re not answering calls again? Rest during the day today; in the afternoon I’m going over to your house for a visit and I’ll bring some meat for you to eat. You’ll be home anyways, yeah? It’s settled then.”

At this moment the small tuxedo cat jumped to the side of the phone, stretched its claws to scratch at the telephone buttons, and sniffed at it. Soon after, it seemed to lose interest and jumped to the sofa to lie down.

“These words make it sound like I, your father, am very idle at home.” Feng Bujue unhappily said to himself out loud. But in actuality… he really was very idle.


Footnotes:

[1]For clarification, Feng Bujue is usually not inspired until midnight

[2]Here she uses the animal description for male, which is derogatory if used on humans, so I went for tom to differentiate.


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