The Pangu God Sword, the symbol of kingship which all men fought over, had been discarded just like that at the foot of Wild Boar Mountain.
Zhu Dalei felt that his heart had been pierced by a sword and completely run through. So this was ‘heartbreak.’
The group of internet-addicted teens mired in their video game craze nearly rushed up to snatch Uncle Officer’s mouse, but their remaining common sense held them back. Can’t do that, it’s not appropriate. You can’t fight him. Don’t seek death. You absolutely definitely have to restrain yourself.
The officer pointed to the screen again, where a wild boar was currently pacing back and forth beside the glowing Pangu God Sword. “It’s just a virtual object. I’m not opposed to youth like yourselves playing games, but you have to do so in moderation and have the right values. Let’s continue on the topic of a harmonious society. A harmonious society…”
After a half-hour civics lecture, their minds were full of the two big words, “harmonious society,” which turned circles and flowed back and forth in their minds.
Xie Yu was tired of squatting. While no one was looking, he plopped down on the ground.
Zhou Dalei happened to glimpse this tiny movement: “Old Xie, you’re slacking.”
Xie Yu patted the ground beside him and said, “You sit, too.”
“……” Zhou Dalei hesitated for two seconds and shrugged. “I don’t dare. I’m worried he’ll make me log into my account and toss all the other equipment I painstakingly gathered. My fragile soul can’t take that kind of hit.”
Xie Yu: “Progress.”
When the officer was more or less finished with his educational attempt, he wished to test the results. He coughed twice to clear his throat and yelled, in the manner of an army officer, “I ask, you answer. What is a harmonious society?”
No one answered.
They had just listened to a whole spiel about a harmonious society, but no one had told them to jot down the main points and prepare for a pop quiz. How could they remember? It was already quite good for them to have managed to listen to it all while squatting.
“It’s, it’s…. it’s…?”
The word, “it’s,” was said many times, tone rising and falling and brimming with emotion, but after a long time no one continued.
The officer’s gaze swept the group several times and landed on someone for an answer. “The pacifist from just now. Do you know?”
He Zhao had started to get sleepy while listening. His eyes were half-lidded, and only when his name was called did he look up: “Me?”
The officer said, “Yes, you. Answer.”
He Zhao didn’t even know what the question was. He glanced left and right and no one looked like they were about to remind him. He scrambled for a while and then answered, “I pick C.”
Because of He Zhao’s answer, everyone’s reflection essay length increased from 2000 words to 3000.
The environment in which they had to write their essays was really awful. Desks weren’t even provided; they had to write against the floor. Xie Yu put the paper over his knee and his pen poked a hole in the paper when he used a little extra force.
Every few lines he wrote, he would poke a new hole in the paper. When Xie Yu got to the second page, he finally frowned in frustration. “Fuck.”
“Don’t get frustrated, friend. Relax.” He Zhao was opposite Xie Yu, and his posture while writing the reflection was very relaxed. His writing was so frantic the words almost leaped off the page but he spoke lightly and calmly: “Life is like that. There will be many obstacles you’ll never even expect, but we can overcome… fuck! Fuck that shit, this paper is so thin? I didn’t even pull at it and it ripped.”
Xie Yu looked up and saw that the A4 paper He Zhao had been holding down with his hands had torn nearly in half. The content covering it made one wonder if they really understood Chinese. By the look of it, he had tried to write an entire line in cursive.
He Zhao pulled out a new sheet of paper and set it on the ground. A guy next to him was convinced by this ‘good handwriting’ of his, and leaned over to stare at it for a long time, then tutted in amazement: “I say, how do you write so fast? What is all this?”
He Zhao said, “Aren’t I cool?”
Xie Yu: “That self-confidence of yours is hard to come by.”
Zhou Dalei was bored of writing and came over to chat, too. “Hey, handsome devil, I hear you’re their leader?”
He Zhao stopped and looked up. His collar was wide open and a piece of jade hanging on a red thread around his neck fell out with his movement. It was a simple shape, a round peace symbol. “Leader? Surely not. We met at an internet cafe and we sometimes raid together.”
Now that the violet weapon had been tossed, everyone had more or less bonded by fighting. And besides, they were sitting here suffering together; surely this was fate. But Zhou Dalei still couldn’t help asking, “You helped steal the violet weapon?”
”I don’t have that much time to waste my energy on pointless things and kept vigil by the secret boss’s spawning point for three days without sleeping or resting,” He Zhao said. “But I really can’t face those guys. It was indeed my idea. It was just a joke but I didn’t think they’d really be so dedicated.”
Hearing that group of people say they wanted the Pangu God Sword but couldn’t beat the hidden boss, he had casually said, “Then steal it.”
He hadn’t expected that it had really given them new ideas.
Zhou Dalei didn’t quite understand. “But, before we fought, you still came out to taunt us?”
He Zhao said, “Since you wanted a fight, then we should have a proper fight, right? The atmosphere wasn’t right, so I came to fix it. Friend, I really didn’t have any other intentions.”
Zhou Dalei: “……” His words just seemed strange.
Xie Yu: “Then, really, thank you.”
He Zhao: “No problem.”
By the time they handed their reflections in it was already evening. Because one of them had written especially slowly and all the essays had to be handed in before they could leave, the ones who had finished first just waited at the side.
“Just three thousand words and you’re defeated. Are you a man or not?” He Zhao had tried to give him pointers at first, but even he eventually admitted that this person was unteachable. “You don’t even know how to write a reflection? ‘I was wrong. I deeply feel my mistake and I promise I will not do it again.’ Then, look forward to your future—write, I’ll dictate and you write.”
Xie Yu watched coldly from the side. In the time it took others to write 3000 words, this person had only written an introduction. Xie Yu wasn’t as chatty as He Zhao: he only said one thing and had already almost made the person cry. “Tell me, did you really finish nine years of compulsory education?”
“All in?” The officer from before had received a phone call and had gone out to take care of some matters. Now he picked up the thick stack of reflection essays, flipped through them, and said, “All right, that’s it. Seeing as you are first-time offenders, we’ve decided to give you a chance to turn over a new leaf. Don’t let something like this happen again. Whether you’re minors or not, you have to take responsibility for your actions.”
Everyone answered in unison: “Yes, yes, yes, thank you uncle officer.”
“It won’t happen again.”
”You must deeply remember the four core principles and eight major values of a harmonious society.”
“How about this. Stand in two lines, the way you did when you first arrived.”
Zhou Dalei hesitated. Was this so that everyone would leave tidily? This place really did value order.
Xie Yu and He Zhao resumed their original position in line and stood face to face. He Zhao had, at some point, put his mask back on and only his eyes showed.
After everyone was in position, the officer let them know an important piece of information, so explosive that no piece of skin on them remained intact: “This police station practices education that springs from love. Based on the principles of love, we’ll try out some measures targeted to kids like you who brawl publicly. Now shake hands, hug, and say, “I love you, my friend,” so that you will really feel the meaning of a harmonious society. Children, the world is a good place. The world is full of love.”
Xie Yu: “……”
He Zhao: “……”
Zhou Dalei: “……?!” The police of this area were too perverted, surely?
Evening, 7 p.m.
Xie Yu sat in a Lanzhou ramen store and looked at his phone as he waited for Zhou Dalei to eat his second serving of ramen.
“Really. I don’t dare fight in this area any more.” Zhou Dalei used his chopsticks to pick out the spring onion, then picked up the noodles and shoved them in his mouth. With his mouth full he said, “Mpf tham scared.”¹
Xie Yu put down his phone: “Finish eating, then talk.”
Zhou Dalei gulped the food down, ignoring that it was piping hot. “I, Lei-zai, have walked the world for sixteen years, and it’s my first time meeting such a thing—I love you, my friend? Please, give this worldly youth a way out.”
The more the worldly youth eating noodles spoke, the more he felt it was unjustified beyond words. In the end, he condensed all his feelings into a single line: “I don’t bow to anybody but I’ll bow to that guy in the station who’s so shameless. How can he be so cavalier?”
Upon hearing how that person was shameless, Xie Yu went slightly green.
Out of everyone, He Zhao was the one who was least psychologically burdened and the one who acted quickest.
He had caught Xie Yu’s hand very naturally, sincerely taken his shoulders, and hugged him. He had said, “I love you, my friend,” full of emotion, and they had seemed like a pair of long-lost blood brothers.
Night had fallen. An evening wind suddenly rose and cooled the heat of the day some.
“Actually, that violet weapon from today… it really wasn’t the video game equipment that I cared about.” Zhou Dalei’s voice suddenly went quiet and he put down his chopsticks. “You know, my grades aren’t good. When I read textbooks I get confused and I have no idea what’s going on. My parents’ barbecue stand doesn’t really count for work, and it’s pretty exhausting, but what else can I do? I only know how to play video games. I can get by playing video games, right? Selling game equipment… Boss Xie, what do you think? Do I have any chance of becoming a professional esports player?”
Xie Yu didn’t say anything and listened quietly.
”Forget it, I was just saying. No matter how good you are at a game, it’s not a job, is it.” Zhou Dalei grabbed a napkin, wiped his mouth, and got up. “Let’s go. It’s late and we have to hurry home. Did you tell your mom you were going out? She’s probably worried.”
Zhou Dalei was usually a heartless person. To someone who didn’t know him, he was a quintessential rascal who wasn’t good at anything.
In the second year of middle school, he had successfully chased a girl he liked. That girl had also been in the second year and thought that having a hooligan friend was badass. By the time their second year was over, she was looking down on him for not being able to do this or that, which shot his heart full of holes. She said she really had been blind.
But the Zhou Dalei Xie Yu knew wasn’t like that.
“Do you like playing games?”
“Yeah, I like to.”
“What would you say your skill level is?”
Zhou Dalei treated it as shooting the breeze and said, “Very good, all right?”
Zhou Dalei walked very far before he realized Xie Yu wasn’t following him.
He turned back and was about to yell, “What are you doing, are you coming? We gotta catch the bus,” when he heard his good friend say from ten meters away, “I think you’re good.”
Zhou Dalei froze.
Xie Yu laughed as he said, “You’re damn good.”²
 he’s saying ‘really damn scared’
‘niubi’/’NB’, which is slang for competent/very good at something. ‘Niubility’ is supposedly a thing although I have never seen it in the wild.