Cheng Zhaoci can still remember an old adage that people die three times in total. First, the biological death, then, at the funeral, social death. The last time, is when no one in the world can remember you anymore. Cheng Zhaoci is quite amazing in that he achieved all three deaths at once.

Died in one fell swoop without pomp or ceremony, without bringing a single tear or burden to the uncaring society.

His entire life, all twenty-six years he walked earnestly and honestly would be remembered by no one. All his passions, his dreams, his drawings he did regardless of the hour of the day in order to make ends meet. All his ambition and likes and hates and everything would simply boil down to a half-arsed lesson about the dangers of staying up too late.

Because he has had a mediocre past, that Cheng Zhaoci values his present company that much more.

And wants to do something for their sake. Everything they have ever done for him had kept Cheng Zhaoci away from having time to mull over how sad his past life had been. He is far too busy thinking about repaying them for their doting kindness.

Oh, and also too busy thinking about how love is born. It sure is asking for trouble for him to write a love story without ever having fallen in love.

Should his love arise naturally, or should it be love at first sight? Cheng Zhaoci isn’t a fan of the latter, for one simple reason – how would love at first sight occur for those whose appearance do not instantly swoon hearts?

Appearance may leave a great first impression, and Cheng Zhaoci can’t deny he’ll be much more inclined to dealing with someone who looks good, but mere appearances do not stand up to the scrutiny of a long, shared life. One gets used to someone’s stunning looks eventually, you see.

But how does love naturally come about? Maybe he should make them childhood friends?

Seeing Cheng Zhaoci all absorbed in his own thoughts makes Mr Liang clear his throat, “xiao-Ci, it’s time for your lesson.”

“Ah! Right!” Cheng Zhaoci snaps back to reality and sits up straight by reflex. Right, he has to finish suffering the lesson before he can even start drawing.

In the evening, after Mr Liang has left, Cheng Zhaoci grabs a stool with him to sit at the back garden for some evening breeze and give ‘love’ a good, hard pondering. Then he ends up locking eyes with a passing shemale.

“…” Cheng Zhaoci asks, “Mr Sun Wushe, is this place where you respawn?” Why is he always running into him at the back garden?

“I’m going home after work,” Sun Wushe points to his home next door.

Oh, right, the weirdo Sun Wushe likes going through his backdoor. Cheng Zhaoci then sighs and sits down on his stool.

“What’s wrong?” For some reason, Sun Wushe isn’t going back inside to eat his dinner anymore. He stops and crouches by the fence, “why the long face? Did someone bully you?” Although he would struggle to come up with anyone who could bully Cheng Zhaoci who is, let’s not forget, a male insectoid.

“Not really,” Cheng Zhaoci looks at Sun Wushe. He seems to be making more than a passing comment and is in no hurry to leave. So he confesses, “I’m struggling to think about love, you see. I have no experience with it, and so I do not know how one falls into love or becomes the one another falls for. Naturally, I mean,” he has all the other plot details worked out already, and is simply stuck at ground zero – how they fall in love at the first place.

It’s really a great pain!

Not that Sun Wushe will be any help, since he has even less idea about how love really works, evident from the way he commented and reacted to the movie the last time.

“Perhaps, it doesn’t just come about naturally,” Sun Wushe suddenly speaks.

Cheng Zhaoci pauses, doubtful, but Sun Wushe answers earnestly, “perhaps in the beginning, there is some quality about the other insectoid that holds your attention. You find the insectoid intriguing, but there is no love at all at this point.”

“It’s just as you mentioned that time. ‘This insectoid is so special and interesting,'” Sun Wushe recalls what he said at the military academy for the teenagers, and adds, “you said it was stale that time, but I disagree.”

“As you continue to pay more attention to that insectoid, then comes a critical moment, when something they say or do, completely dazzles you,” like what Cheng Zhaoci told him after the movie that day.

Cheng Zhaoci pointed out that ‘love’ means that there is nothing else more important around the other insectoid. Their hearts beat for each other. It’s an impulse, a rush to fill the void in your fleeting, insignificant life with another one.

To live together for the rest of their lives, huh. Sun Wushe was looking at Cheng Zhaoci with his heart beating so rapidly back then, but he said nothing.

“After you’re dazzled, you find the insectoid’s image occupying your thoughts more and more often, and unable to suppress it.”

“Even if you hate how you’re always thinking about the other insectoid and try to remove them from your thoughts, you fail, and before you know it, the image has already lodged itself far too firmly in your mind.”

Sun Wushe concludes, “so finally, as you said, you realise you have an urge to make him fill the void in your fleeting life; I think there is also an added aspect, though. That you might also cower and be unwilling to make a first step.”

Cheng Zhaoci’s jaw is on the floor. He is speechless. He has his material now – amazingly detailed and rich material, in fact, from Sun Wushe’s vivid description. Sun Wushe was avid enough that Cheng Zhaoci had to ask, “did you actually fall for someone?”

How else could his thoughts have evolved so much in so short a period of time?

Though he isn’t attributing that change to himself, because one must be mad to assume a casual acquaintance you’ve met for several times would have fallen head over heels for you. He, Cheng Zhaoci, is not a shameless narcissist.

“It’s nothing more than a simple analytical hypothesis for you,” Sun Wushe also doesn’t betray a hint of Cheng Zhaoci hitting anything on the nail, “since you seem to be oh-so-woefully wrapping your head in pain. Consider it a mere sympathetic gesture from me.”

He stands back up, and heads back for his own house. As soon as he has turned around, his expression has cooled down entirely.

There is a message in his holodeck. It’s from Jin Yue. He has suggested a pact.

A timely reminder for Sun Wushe, that he does not belong in this Federation, after all.

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