Chapter 30.1

So-Called 'Like'

Translated by boilpoil
Edited by boilpoil

By the time the weather is finally warming during early September, Cheng Zhaoci is, at last, progressing ever so slightly with his love story.

He prepared this for far longer than ‘In a Tiny Flicker,’ since Cheng Zhaoci is bad at expressing love, and his thoughts keep turning to overused tropes.

Whenever his thoughts stuck he just wanted a simpler, more convenient way to resolve the issue, like giving the protagonist a terminal illness to show their deep affection for each other.

Ah! The pain of losing the loved protagonist for the second lead will multiply the love by two! Then the illness somehow gets treated and everyone is happily ever after.

Honestly, if Cheng Zhaoci is aware of any illness whose treatment still eludes the insectoid society and its advanced technologies, and coming with an uncurable illness that still has to somehow be treated is in any way logical, he might have written it after all.

A comic artist fears nothing when he wants for plot.

This time, Cheng Zhaoci is still giving protagonist status to a male, while the other lead isn’t a shemale, but a demi instead, in order to serve the story better – as insectoids less physically capable, they generally work the more mentally gruelling jobs.

He is planning for a deus ex machina with war destroying the façade of normalcy in life. A demi would make it easier to write how the leads got separated in the war.

A shemale could have just jumped off some 12-storey building with the male in his tow and then quickly scarper out of danger. And you’re saying they have to get separated?

Meanwhile, Cheng Zhaoci also knows a demi who is married. Mr Liang!

“How I fell in love my with xiongzhu?” Mr Liang is holding his warm cup of tea while examining the excitable young male in front of him. Below the eyes are slightly darkened skin caused by staying up too late.

Mr Liang tries to recall, but ends up smiling and quietly saying, “I don’t really think I have an answer?”

The young male is clearly disappointed at the answer, so Mr Liang ruffles Cheng Zhaoci’s hair gently, “you really have a lot of your own thoughts. You’re a most special male insectoid,” the teacher says with a soothing voice.

“All that you see and aspire to are beautiful. Your teacher is quite intrigued and hopeful as well, wishing to also see this world you describe with his own eyes,” perhaps these things come with old age; being over 100 years old in spite of the youthful appearance, Mr Liang’s speech is always gentle and bordering on doting, “it is a shame this world is nowhere near as perfect as you would wish it to be.”

Mr Liang pulls his hand back and takes a sip of his tea, “there is no love. It is simply because my xiongzhu is a male.”

“It is difficult enough to find a xiongzhu, and mine is quite honourable as well. He did not divorce me simply because I turned out to be infertile,” Mr Liang sighs and apologises, “I’m sorry, but I’m probably not the demi you are looking for,” the tone makes it sound more like he is talking to himself, or to a child.

Mr Liang is fortunate, because he would have had to endure much more hardship if his xiongzhu simply abandoned him. There is heavy discrimination and even classism against demis abandoned by males, as they do not have the physical capabilities to back them up like shemales do.

There is also the matter of demis being more generally emotionally complex, you see. Far more than shemales. Factionalism is rampant among demi circles, and so is being singled out and distanced by them.

“It is wrong for you to apologise,” Cheng Zhaoci sits back down at his seat, “no one insectoid has the right to cast judgement on whether another insectoid’s life was ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ What is important is that you live happily for yourself,” although it is, undeniably, a hurdle in his path to creating a new story.

Mr Liang, whose hands are already going through the teaching materials, pauses almost imperceptibly. There are many others calling him ‘lucky’ for sure, not being abandoned by his xiongzhu even though he is infertile. There are also those who chastise him, saying he is a ‘waste of air and space’ just by living – why should he, a demi-shemale, deserve to even live without even having offsprings of his own?

Living happily for oneself is a phrase he has never heard before. And that said, “xiao-Ci, your comics are all carrying messages beneath the surface, are they not?” If he really believed that no one insectoid can judge whether others are living a good or bad life, then why is he trying to push for change using them?

“They are, because I am also selfish. I’m not a saint, and I have family members I treasure very much. They also treat me very well, so I want to do something for them.” If he never did meet his dad, Xiao Ji, He Huaijian, or Wei Zhuo, then while he will be sympathetic to the shemales’ and demis’ plight, he would not have lifted a finger for them.

All is simply because he has family ties to them, and he did not in his past life. While he was completely ‘free’ and responsible and beholden to no one in the past life, and bound by countless relationships and obligations in this life, he finds it a much more appealing experience even if he has to worry a lot more than his past life.

Because he can feel that he is loved, and needed by others.

Let’s put it this way, how ever ugly the metaphor is – if one day, Cheng Zhaoci just up and died, he will definitely be discovered promptly and will be sent to the hospital to be revived at all costs. There will definitely be those who will shed genuine tears for him, to bawl and to cry like a baby.

Unlike his past life, when his death will probably only be discovered through being reported as a nasty smell by his neighbours. His residential block’s management would have had to visit to realise his death, and call the police.

His last ‘moment of glory’ would probably have been an insignificant segment in the local news, to warn youngsters to value their bodies more, and not overwork themselves to the point of having a stroke. Then his final, social value would have been expended.

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