Chapter 56: The Bouquet
When Tang Cuo came to the express delivery shop again, serving him was still the 70-or-so-year-old man with muddy eyes, who opened his mouth just to ask for the express fee of 1 point.
Tang Cuo was now a rich guy hiding 100 points inside, so naturally he wouldn’t be stingy with this tiny 1 point, but after catching sight of his package, he still didn’t feel like paying.
“Who gave you roses? Did you have a romantic affair before you came here?” Jin Cheng’s chuckle rang in his ears. Tang Cuo looked over and saw him leaning on the shelf with his arms folded and smiling, but his tone somehow sounded a little cold.
“I didn’t have any romantic affair.” Tang Cuo said.
“Then it means someone has a crush on you.” Jin Cheng said, picking up the bouquet of roses and checking it carefully, but he couldn’t find any card or the likes. But then, who would write a greeting card when visiting someone’s grave?
Tang Cuo felt that this wasn’t a bouquet sent to him by his admirer, because besides flowers, there were other very down-to-earth items in the package. For example, money, fruits and a pot of beef bone soup.
As he opened the pot lid, a familiar scent slipped out, and Tang Cuo instantly knew the source of this thing ― Da Li’s wife.
Da Li used to be Tang Cuo’s comrade-in-arms. When he first reunited with Jin Cheng, Tang Cuo mentioned that Da Li had married his childhood sweetheart two years ago. Marriage meant a new beginning, so Da Li returned to his hometown after his discharge from the army and started a small business. Although his life was uneventful and ordinary, it wasn’t bad in any way.
After Tang Cuo changed his career and became a detective, he met with Da Li once. Da Li had no idea why Tang Cuo suddenly decided to become a third-rate detective, but seeing that Tang Cuo was alone, he actually invited Tang Cuo to his city so everyone could stay nearby and support each other.
Tang Cuo declined the offer, but during that brief meeting, the one thing that left the most impression on him was the pot of soup on the table.
Da Li had always been a considerate man. Remembering that Tang Cuo liked to drink that soup, Da Li brought a pot of soup to Tang Cuo’s grave. Then remembering that Tang Cuo said he liked red roses, Da Li gave him a bouquet of red roses.
But Tang Cuo actually lied to him. Only a simple man like Da Li wouldn’t question such a lie full of loopholes.
“Speaking of which, when I first arrived in Yong Ye City, I also received a bouquet of roses.” Jin Cheng was suddenly reminded of his past and said with a hint of sorrow in his tone, but from the corner of his eye, he was carefully paying attention to Tang Cuo’s expression.
“Oh.” Tang Cuo said nonchalantly.
Jin Cheng felt a bit irate.
This little temper of his kept on until the two returned to East Cross Street. Before entering the room, Jin Cheng really couldn’t help but say: “Are you sure that no one has a crush on you? She makes you soup and sends you flowers, even I feel so touched. “
Tang Cuo stepped forward in one large stride, then turned around: “This is from Da Li. Do you want to drink the soup? If not, I’ll close the door.”
Jin Cheng raised his eyebrows, froze for three seconds then firmly let out two words: “I want.”
The two bought takeaways on the way back and combined those with the soup to make a great dinner. But while drinking the soup, Jin Cheng still couldn’t help but mutter something else: “What’s wrong with Da Li, just give you the soup, why does he want to send you roses?”
Tang Cuo: “Can you not mention the roses?”
“Why?” Jin Cheng suddenly moved nearer, his handsome face magnified infinitely before Tang Cuo’s eyes, causing Tang Cuo to subconsciously lean back on the chair. He simply put down his bowl and stared back at Jin Cheng in this position.
This man is really weird today.
“This is a misunderstanding. Da Li thinks I like roses, so he give me roses.” Tang Cuo explained concisely.
“Can you two really have such a misunderstanding?”
“Why can’t we have it?”
“So you don’t like roses?”
“I don’t hate them either.”
Jin Cheng finally stopped asking, then he crossed his legs graciously and continued to drink the soup. When the dinner was over, he picked up the bouquet of roses and said: “Since you don’t like roses very much, can you give them to me?”
Tang Cuo: “It’s up to you.”
Jin Cheng just took the flowers away.
Back to his room next door, he put the flowers in the glass jug bought from the supermarket and placed them on the table. But after a while, he felt the flowers to be quite an eyesore, so he moved them to the floor at the end of the bed, pretending that they didn’t exist.
Ten minutes passed.
He thought about the fact that these flowers came from Da Li’s kind heart and moved them back to the table. After going back and forth three times, Jin Cheng was tired, so he decisively pulled out a rope from his inventory and hung the flowers outside the window ―
Let everyone enjoy them. Such fresh and pretty flowers shouldn’t be kept to himself only.
It was a beautiful night with good dreams.
After eight hours of sleep, Tang Cuo woke up. He looked at the night outside the window, completely at a loss of the concept of time. He briefly washed up, splashed cold water on his face, brushed away the hair on his forehead and looked up in the mirror. The dream of last night came to his mind.
He dreamed of the time he used to be in the camp.
What colour was his time in the camp? It should be the colour of camouflage, tears and sweat, fear, hard work and struggle. But last night’s dream carried a tint of roses, the colour of youth and restless hormones.
After calming down a bit, Tang Cuo walked to the window and looked out. The corner of his eye suddenly caught a glimpse of a gorgeous shade of red, and he turned around to see ― Really, just what is wrong with Jin Cheng’s head? Why does he hang the roses outside the window?
At that moment, the window next door opened, and Jin Cheng poked his head out, brushing his teeth and asking: “What do you want for breakfast?”
Tang Cuo was expressionless: “Oatmeal.”
Jin Cheng: “It’s better to have a healthy pot of congee.”
Tang Cuo ignored him, closed the curtain, opened the door and left without looking back, planning to go to eat hot and sour noodles by himself outside East Cross Street.
Jin Cheng heard the movement from next door and knew that the little bastard was definitely running away, but it didn’t matter ― his health kettle had a timer, so he didn’t have to worry that Tang Cuo wouldn’t eat the congee.
On the other side, Tang Cuo, who went out alone looking for food, had hot and sour noodles as he wished.
The lady who sold hot and sour noodles was an auntie with a compassionate look. When she entered Yong Ye City, she was just in time for the annual civil service exam. She thought that she never read lots of books and had no chance at all, but who could expect that her unique skill of cooking hot and sour noodles enabled her to pass.
According to what she told Tang Cuo, she hadn’t gone through a single dungeon. Truly, she was another favourite of Mr. Crow beside Extreme Luck.
“Young man, how did you end up here? Tell auntie, don’t look at auntie making hot and sour noodles all day. Auntie has seen so many people, maybe I can give you some advice.” Apart from selling hot and sour noodles, the auntie’s only joy in life right now was to chit chat with others, but most players in Yong Ye City had either been crushed to despair by the dungeons or become completely indifferent and numb, so only a handful could really listen to her talking.
This young man Tang Cuo was good. He looked like a decent, kind-hearted boy, and the auntie liked it.
But in the face of Mr. Crow’s favourite, how could Tang Cuo blatantly say that he was a negative score player and a noteworthy contestant on the Blacklist? Auntie might not be able to accept such a contrast.
“I’m just an ordinary player.” Tang Cuo said.
“Hey, what players or ordinary players?” The auntie suddenly looked sad: “I’ve been in Zone F for many years, and I look forward to seeing my old man again every day. Now that I think about it, it’s better not to see him. If I don’t see him, it means he may still be alive. It’s great to be alive, my grandson should be in primary school now.”
Tang Cuo just listened quietly.
At the end, he asked: “Auntie, how long do you still have to serve?”
The auntie replied smoothly: “There should be about ten years left.”
Ten years. A really long time.
After eating hot and sour noodles, Tang Cuo wasn’t in a hurry to go back. He planned to go to the training ground to have a look. These training grounds were specially set up for players, because players had a variety of skills, some of which might be too powerful to be deployed in their own small rooms. Even gunners needed special shooting ranges.
Tang Cuo wanted to test the compatibility of his magic and the [Sword of Judgment]. It would be best if there was a large space with good concealment.
The training ground in Zone F was close to the central area, with only a small, unappealing reception at the entrance, where a human NPC was stationed as the front desk clerk. After Tang Cuo explained his specific requirements, the NPC pressed a few times on the control console full of light screens, then he looked up and said ―
“Room 509, mister, 3 points per hour. You can directly go in, the system will automatically deduct the points as payment.”
Hearing this price, Tang Cuo finally had a defined impression of the way Yong Ye City put price tags on things. The conclusion was ― The strong would only get stronger and the weak would only get weaker.
If you wanted to clear the dungeons to get more points, you must become stronger.
But if you wanted to become stronger, you had to add points to your attributes, buy potions and train yourself. All three of them required points, and the amount was never small. Where would the points come from? The dungeons.
This was a cycle.
Most of the players in Yong Ye City were ordinary people who couldn’t even fight, and this wasn’t a place where you could just awaken your abilities when you arrived. The only way to become stronger was to work hard.
Tang Cuo had a strong fighting ability compared to most people in an average crowd, and a strong partner like Jin Cheng, yet he had only accumulated 50 points till now. If there weren’t 100 points given to him by Jin Cheng, what could he even rely on to do training? How could he buy potions? It was impossible for him to not add points, not to mention that he had to pay points every month too.
The worst part was that some people might not get any deliveries from the world of the living. If you didn’t have money, you had to spend points, and if you didn’t have enough points, you could go to work in places like the taverns. While working part-time, you still had to go through dungeons, living through such an excruciating life yet unable to just simply die.
Perhaps for people like that, dying inside the dungeon was also a kind of relief.
But the system was watching everywhere. Once you were determined as having a negative will to live or trying to seek death on your own, would there be punishments?
At this time, the front desk clerk asked: “Sir, VIP members can get a 10% discount, do you want to apply for a card?”
Tang Cuo’t thoughts were interrupted and he looked at the front desk blankly. The clerk continued to smile. The two of them stared at each other, and after a few seconds, the clerk asked again: “Do you want to apply for a card? If you apply now, you can enjoy ―”
Tang Cuo: “No.”
He straight away turned around and walked towards the glass elevator, which moved downward here. There were thirteen floors, and room 509 was on the fifth floor below him.
The moment the elevator opened, two more people walked into the building. They casually said hi to the front desk and followed Tang Cuo into the elevator.
They were heading to the fourth floor.
Most of the players in Yong Ye City didn’t have the habit of greeting strangers, so the two parties just stood on both sides of the elevator, totally on guard and ignoring each other. But after a few seconds, the two seemed to recognise Tang Cuo.
One of them stealthily pushed the other while taking a step back, and a moment later, the two turned their heads at the same time: “Tang, Tang ge.”
Tang Cuo: “…”
Wasn’t the Kitchen Knife gang gone? Why was he still enjoying the treatment of a gang boss?
By this point, they had arrived at the fourth floor, so the two nodded to Tang Cuo and quickly left the elevator. Throughout the whole process, Tang Cuo didn’t say a word and just kept a cold expression, but this perfectly matched the settings of a gang boss.
He thought, this must be Jin Cheng’s fault.
Soon, he arrived at the fifth floor.
The underground training ground was truly magnificent. From the glass elevator, he could see the open arena on each floor. As he went down one floor by one floor, different people and different faces were releasing their very primal fighting instincts.
Like a Colosseum.
Tang Cuo calmly walked out and away from the public area, all the way to the private training rooms. The training rooms here were all enclosed single rooms. He smoothly found 509, and as he pushed the door to enter, unsurprisingly, the system sent a reminder that the timer would start now.
Because it was his first time here and he also didn’t inform Jin Cheng, so he only planned to try it for an hour.
Today’s programme: Fireball skill.
Tang Cuo had a garbage-quality skill named Fireball rewarded by the system, as well as a basic-level Fireball skill obtained through learning magic. As a man who had ascended through the ranks with Fireball, of course he had to start training from this very skill.
This Fireball skill had to work in tandem with the [Sword of Judgment], because Tang Cuo didn’t use any wand or staff.
What was a wand?
Tang Cuo thought it was just a conductor.
In the end, magic was manifested by the wizard’s own mana and magic energy gathered in his body, which was then guided out through a conductor.
Roger Reeds’s conductor was a cane, and Aesop’s conductor was a black umbrella. This proved that the conductor wasn’t limited to a regular wooden wand, so Tang Cuo only needed to direct his magic through the [Sword of Judgment], and theoretically, he should be able to cast a spell.
But Tang Cuo tried several times and couldn’t do it. Could it be that his casting posture was wrong?
Tang Cuo simply sat down cross-legged, put the [Sword of Judgment] on his knees and carefully felt the flow of magic energy inside him.
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.