The Emperor's Runaway Lover - Chapter 6
“Fatty Zhang, pass it, pass it!”
“Why are you tackling people from the back?”
With a burst of cheerful noise, seven or eight children suddenly sprang out of the street to the right like a flock of birds, happily chasing a dirty football.
The screeching of the brakes cut the air.
Fu Yucheng stepped on the pedal harshly, and immediately a tugging pain surged from his abdominal region. He hissed and gasped for breath, then blasted the horn. “You all must be in a hurry to reincarnate!”
The scamps ignored him completely, rushing past the front of the car.
“Fatty Zhang, aren’t your buttocks itchy?” Fu Yucheng yelled. “I’ll be telling your mother tomorrow, see if she doesn’t break your legs!”
Fatty Zhang was obviously not afraid of his threats and ran away with the ball, smiling.
The boy looked at the group of distant children questioningly. “What are they doing?”
“Bunch of little bastards!” Fu Yucheng grumbled again before answering the boy’s question. “They are playing football. Why, you’ve never played?”
The boy shook his head.
Fu Yucheng glanced at the other sympathetically. “Poor brat.”
At this time, the group of scamps had already reached the left side of the path, cheering from time to time.
A bald man cursed as he got off a huge container truck. He was very tall, with a bushy beard, and he wore a tight black vest that showed his two visibly muscular, beefy arms.3
The bald man, cursing at the group of kids playing football, looked over towards Fu Yucheng’s vehicle with a frown.
Fu Yucheng looked at him through the windshield with a blank look on his face.
The baldie was taken aback for a moment, then he angrily stuck up his middle finger, spat a mouthful of phlegm onto the ground, and walked back into his truck.
Fu Yucheng sneered and patted the boy who was leaning against the window of the car. “Brat, don’t lean there, do me a favor and sit down.”
The boy hesitated and sat back down.
“This place is a bit messy.” Fu Yucheng skillfully turned the steering wheel to the left, and the RV turned and entered a narrow lane. “The baldie just now is a local bully, He Lei’s thug. His boss and I got a bit of a quarrel going on. A white and tender child like you would be like a little lamb to them. With just one hand they can squish you to death.”
“He Lei? Thug? Little lamb? What are those?” The boy frowned.
“He Lei is the temporary manager of Fort Hurricane, so he’s kind of the boss of Parking Lot 4. As for a little lamb, it’s a type of small animal. I heard that it was delicious, but it is long gone now, it’s been extinct for ages.”
The boy nodded and did not ask any more questions. He thought to himself that being a so-called little lamb was probably not a good thing.
“Here we go.” Fu Yucheng slowly backed the car into a parking space, finally breathing a sigh of relief.
He leaned on the back of the driver’s seat, barely stood up, dragged himself to the sofa with his two numb legs, and landed on it face first. “I’m so fucking tired.”
The boy frowned and looked at him. “Your injury, aren’t you going to ask a doctor to deal with it?”
“It’s just a small injury. It didn’t damage any internal organs. I won’t die from it. On the way back I took a few more tablets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic pills, and they’re still working.” Fu Yucheng nonchalantly waved his hand . “I told you already. This is Earth, not an Ecoregion, there are only unreliable folk healers here.4 Where would anyone get a doctor from?”
His stomach growled in an untimely manner. Fu Yucheng paused and blinked awkwardly.
“Hey, brat.” He touched his chin. “You seem very clever, can you cook?”
The boy slowly shook his head, looking bewildered.
“Actually, cooking is very simple.” Fu Yucheng softened his voice as much as possible as he tried to extort child labor. “Besides, you are hungry too. I will teach you how to do it. When it’s done, let’s eat together, yeah?”
The boy thought that the man’s tone was very strange, and for some reason he felt like he was being deceived. He glanced at the other defensively, without saying a word.
“In any case, I did save your life today. Since I can’t move very well now, it’s only reasonable for you to cook a meal, nothing excessive.” At this point, Fu Yucheng was tired and hungry, and his patience was depleted.
He pointed at the kitchen counter with his finger. “There are still a few potatoes in the sink. You can wash them, peel them and chop them up. Then you put some water in the pot, put the potatoes in once it’s boiling, and cook for a few minutes. By the way, the switch for the induction cooker is towards the left.”
The boy lowered his eyes and thought for a while, then finally nodded cautiously. “I can try.”
Fu Yucheng, having succeeded in obtaining child labor, smiled pleasantly. “Good boy.”
The boy, without another word, turned around and walked to the counter.
He looked down at the mess on the counter, somewhat speechless. He grew up in an almost sterile laboratory, and he really was not used to such a chaotic environment.
The silver-white kitchen counter was made of an alloy, and was only two feet long and one foot wide. On the left was the induction cooker, and on the right was a small circular sink. In the sink there were piles of greasy pots and pans, and a few dirty potatoes. The potatoes were all green on the surface and looked like they were about to sprout.
The small saucepan on the induction cooker looked even worse. The body and bottom of the pot were blackened, and there was a layer of dried brown paste in the pot with a spoon stuck in it.
Obviously, the owner had no clean bowls or chopsticks left, so he had simply used the saucepan as a bowl.
It was too sloppy.
When Fu Yucheng saw the boy staring at the counter in a daze, he could easily guess what the other was thinking.
He felt a little embarrassed, and touched his chin awkwardly. “Ah, I’m usually quite busy and don’t have time to take care of this sort of stuff. By the way, there’s salt and sugar in the cabinet under the counter. You can make do with those, right?”
“Yeah,” the boy replied, seeming to finally accept the status quo. He rolled up his sleeves and began to peel the potatoes.
His peeling movements were very neat, and within two minutes he had peeled a few potatoes clean.
“Brat, you’re good with knives, not bad at all.” Fu Yucheng stared at his skilled movements, deep in thought.
The motion of the boy’s hand paused slightly. “I learned how to use a knife in the laboratory. They are all similar.”
Fu Yucheng nodded, dropping that line of questioning.
At this point, the effect of the analgesics had faded, and his wounds began to hurt again. He didn’t want to waste any more precious painkillers, so he simply closed his eyes, relaxed his body and leaned back on the sofa, serenely enduring the pain.
“Chop chop chop” came from the boy cutting potatoes, quiet and steady.
Lulled by the background noise, Fu Yucheng unexpectedly fell asleep again without realizing.
After who knows how long, the smell of warm food gradually permeated the air.
“Huh,” he sniffed subconsciously, barely opened his eyes, and looked to the side.
On the crude induction cooker, the foam was bumping the lid of the little saucepan up and down.
The boy was standing by the sink, carefully wiping a chipped porcelain bowl. He seemed to notice the movement on the sofa and turned his head to look that way.
“The meal is done, huh?” Fu Yucheng rubbed his eyes in a daze.
“Yeah, it’s done.” The boy nodded, turned off the induction cooker with a “click”, wrapped the handle of the saucepan in a wet rag, and carefully carried it over.
“I have never cooked before.” He put the saucepan on the small square table in front of the sofa, his expression a little hesitant. “However, it should be edible.”
“Let’s see.” Fu Yucheng sat up and looked down at the saucepan.
The boy had cleaned the old little saucepan well, and the originally charred bottom had been thoroughly washed. The boiled potatoes in the pot were cut neatly, the excess water had been drained, and a pinch of coarse salt had been sprinkled on top.
Fu Yucheng stared at the interior of the pot that had finally gotten to see the light of day again, with mixed feelings.
The only issue was that there were only about a dozen pieces of boiled potatoes in the pot, barely covering the bottom.
“That’s not enough food.” He was a little worried.
“Many were spoiled, I had to cut off more than half.” The boy misunderstood what the other meant, and explained anxiously. “I didn’t steal them.”
“Ah, I didn’t mean that. The potatoes had been in storage for too long. No way around it, it seems that I’ll have to borrow something from the boss tomorrow.”
Fu Yucheng scratched his head, took a thick porcelain bowl that was next to it, and put in half of the potatoes. He thought for a while, then added two more scoops before handing the bowl to the boy.
The boy was taken aback for a moment, and did not take the bowl.
Fu Yucheng got a little impatient. “Take it.”
The boy pursed his lips and finally reached out to take the bowl, lowering his gaze. It was hard to guess his thoughts.
He hesitated for a while before saying, “How about you, do you have enough?”
Fu Yucheng unceremoniously brought the small saucepan in front of him, put a large piece of potato into his mouth, and vaguely responded, “Last month, I was picking up something in Western Sahara and I got trapped in quicksand by accident. I didn’t eat or drink for four entire days and four entire nights, so yeah, it’s fine. I’m an adult, I’m different from a growing kid like you.”
“Four days and four nights is nearly a hundred hours, it’s impossible to not drink anything.” The boy frowned. “The dehydration would make you pass out.”
Fu Yucheng had been bragging and he got busted. He couldn’t avoid choking up a bit. “Ah, brat, do you even know what having an iron willpower means?”
“It’s not a problem that willpower can solve. It’s about the physical limitations of the human body.” The boy said seriously.
“Children will be children, spouting too much nonsense, eat your potatoes.” Fu Yucheng ended the conversation harshly.
“But,” the boy gave him a puzzled look, “four entire days and four entire nights?”
“Just shut up.”
Although the boy was very confused, he closed his mouth obediently and did not investigate further. He put a potato in his mouth looking as if he were still thinking about the feasibility of not drinking water for four entire days and four entire nights.
“Brat, you’ve cooked the potatoes well, neither too soft nor too hard. It’s a shame that the only seasonings I have here are salt and sugar. Children like you from the Imperial Ecoregions are probably not used to this kind of rough meal.”
“I think it’s good.” The boy took a sip of potato broth and said vaguely, “salty and warm.”
“Your standards are pretty low, aren’t they?” Fu Yucheng couldn’t help feeling a bit amused. “Brat, what do you want to eat? Tomorrow I’ll go ask the lady boss to see if I can borrow some stuff, but she’s always stingy so I won’t get much. Don’t even think about sweet potatoes, corn, fruits or bacon. By the way, do you like sweet or salty foods?”
The boy tilted his head slightly, as if trying to remember something. “No preference. I used to take drinks, gels and tablets, and they all taste the same.”
Fu Yucheng was stunned, and then understood.
He had already assumed that this kid had probably grown up in a laboratory in the Ecoregions. He probably had never eaten ordinary food and subsisted on nutrients that were prepared by a nutritionist.
The liquid nutrients were called drinks, the ones in paste form were called gels, and the solid ones were tablets.5 As for the taste, Fu Yucheng was also very familiar with it. After all, as a natural mental force field controller, he himself grew up eating that shit.
Just as the boy said, all the nutritional supplements were practically tasteless, causing no unnecessary stimulation to the taste buds and also getting rid of any adverse effects of ordinary food on the human body.
However, it was really fucking unpalatable.
Taking that into consideration, Fu Yucheng couldn’t help but feel some commiseration for him.
He reached out and patted the boy’s hair, saying in a serious tone, “No need to say more, I get it.”
After eating the potatoes, the clock marked a quarter past twenty, so it was time to go to bed. The scenery outside the car window remained an eternal dusk, unchanged by the passage of time.
The boy cleaned up the dishes and carefully washed them by the sink.
Fu Yucheng laid down comfortably on the sofa. Seeing the little figure who was bent over washing the dishes, somehow he felt guilty for exploiting child labor.
He kept his eyes on the other for a while, and then his sleepiness surged up like a tide. The day had been too long and exhausting.
“Noob, turn on sleep mode.”
“Beep beep beep, sleep mode activated. Lights off, sound insulation on.”
The shutters and blackout curtains of the off-road vehicle were automatically lowered, and the cabin suddenly went dark. There was only a small night lamp next to the kitchen counter, giving out a dim warm yellow light.
Fu Yucheng yawned, pulled up a blanket and wrapped it around himself. “Brat, go to sleep on the bed on top. Climb up the ladder next to you, it’s over there. I usually sleep there, but it’s not a good idea for me to be climbing up and down now, so I’ll sleep on the sofa.
“Be careful not to roll off the bed.” He added, muttering, then turned around and closed his eyes.
The boy paused slightly and nodded. “Okay, got it.”
Fu Yucheng was very tired, too lazy to say anything else, and went to sleep by himself.
After a while, the boy was done working. He hesitated for a moment before silently climbing up the ladder and getting under the quilt of the loft bed.
There was a faint, old soapy smell coming from the thin bedding. It had been laundered roughly, and the fabric was neither soft nor did it smell nice.
The boy lay on his side, curled up into a small ball.
On the opposite sofa, Fu Yucheng was wrapped up in an old blanket, fast asleep.
The yellow lighting from the night lamp hit the corner of the blanket on the ground. The blanket was very old, with a cheap cheesy pink rose print, and had some small blood stains on the edge, remnants of the operation.
The blood was completely dry, having taken a dark brown color.
The boy stared at the dark brown blood stains, not sure what to think. The light from the night lamp was faint, and the only thing his ears heard was a man’s deep and even breaths.
The boy: you live like this?
Special thanks to my editor Wintery once again, and thank you everyone for your comments! Please review/vote on NU if you like the story as well! Here’s the link!
- The original nickname here seems to be a reference to this specific comedian but I’m not that knowledgeable about English pop culture to know an equivalent ;;;
- The gesture described is actually called akanbe.
- In Chinese it says 花臂肌肉虬 which is something like flowery intertwined arms and sounds pretty, but it basically means ripped.
- Original text 赤脚大夫, barefoot doctors (the doctor part is a different pinyin from regular doctors), requires some cultural context. Translation doesn’t mean to imply barefoot doctors were the same as folk healers, it’s just more suitable given Fu Yucheng’s tone.
- The original names are 水剂, 膏剂, 片剂, literally water agent, paste agent, sheet agent, but they sound quite awkward.