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Monday, May 04, 2009

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 7

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones

Chapter 7: He doesn’t know his talent

Feng Yu was a middle-aged man, who always liked to describe himself as: a mature, sedate, reliable, and handsome yet with a grain of ripeness from vicissitudes, stunning middle-aged uncle who could capture the hearts of the entire world, especially those of the young girls.
He wasn’t exaggerating too much. Suppose that he was willing to take a bath once in a while, shave a bit more often, replace his mouthful of ugly teeth, and put on some appropriate pieces of clothing, maybe even become a few years younger, then he certainly possessed that special grace.
Unfortunately the reality didn’t allow that many suppositions, so Feng Yu was still just an ordinary, childless, middle-aged citizen who did nothing but drink liquor, chit chat, daydream inside the electrical appliance repair shop in the fourth district of the Xiang-Lan Boulevard from Monday through Thursday every week and drool over the occasional female police officers in uniform who happened to walk past the repair shop.
The appliance repair shop always had good business because Feng Yu certainly had excellent craftsmanship. Whether it was the latest model of the rollable crystal screen, the antique liquid crystal display, an overclocked room thermal control, or an electric skateboard for kids, as long as it was a machine powered by electricity, he could always put it back to order.
Good business naturally meant a stable income. For that reason, during every three-day weekend protected by law, Feng Yu got into the habit of closing down the shop and frequented himself in the many major recreation clubs of the Riverwest State. He got to know many of the girls in the recreation clubs and at the same time spent a great deal of money. His neighbors in the district had long known the horny side of the middle-aged man, so no one ever showed any sign of surprise.
However, none of them knew that during the weekends of the last two years, Feng Yu had not spent every weekend on relieving his male hormones, but instead, had gone to a secluded mine tunnel far from the city. The mine tunnel had been abandoned for many years. Especially after the mine accident ten years ago and the bankruptcy of the United Mining Corporation, no one ever visited the mine tunnel again. Even though the miner’s old break room had been turned into an appliance repair shop, no one else ever learned about it.
Xu Le shot a sharp glare at the middle-aged man sitting on the sofa. After a quiet sigh, he took out the dishes from the oven by his side and laid them on the table.
“Time to eat,” he said softly as he went on retrieving a hot towel for the middle-aged man to wipe his face with first.
No matter how annoyed Xu Le found himself, his habitual softheartedness and kindness would always soon take over. Not able to stomach the dispirited look of the middle-aged uncle, he couldn’t help but look after him.
Feng Yu sat on the table and started chewing the cheap-looking meat, making loud disgusting noises.
“Why’s the buffalo meat so tough?” he suddenly exclaimed.
“No meat tastes good if you leave it in a freezer for half a year.”
With a blank face, Xu Le filled his own bowl with rice and then sat by the table. The two men’s dining habits had turned into something quite unusual in the last two years. If an ordinary Eastwood District resident had seen this, he would have considered them excessively luxurious.
“You haven’t answered my question,” Xu Le suddenly put down his chopsticks and demanded sincerely. “I know you worked for the military as an electrical technician and only became a deserter because you offended your supervising officer. But that electric prod you taught me how to make, man, doesn’t it look a bit too authentic? See…it has been several days now. I must have really scared Bao Longtao. He didn’t dare to ask Li Wei about me at all.”
“Didn’t I tell you two years ago? I am a man with stories!” Uncle Feng Yu clearly didn’t mind the nausea-causing effect of his tone and continued with a leisurely voice filled with self-complacency.
“In those old days with my rank and security clearance in the military, the kind of design documents I could get my hands on will totally blow you away. Even if you wanted a battle-grade cannon, I could have made one for you, as long as you’ve got the needed materials, let alone a mere electric prod.”
Xu Le had grown quite used to this kind of conversation. Naturally he didn’t show much of a reaction.
“Will you give up the bragging? Remember that time when we were lucky to find a central control unit for a Mech at the waste station? You looked at it for five days and still dared not repair it.”
Feng Yu’s face turned purple. After a few coughs, he reprimanded sternly.
“That was an antique from the days of the Fourth Military District! Dammit! Who knows about a piece of crap hundreds of years old? Of course all I could do was to observe it with appreciation.”
“But what else can you make besides the electric prod?” Xu Le said dispiritedly. “It has been two years! All I learned from you were how to repair TVs, refrigerators, toys, and cars. The draft exam for the Department of Defense is only two years away. So far I haven’t even seen a real Mech or space battleship. How will I ever pass the exam?”
Feng Yu chewed on his steaks and mocked in a disgruntled voice.
“You never even finished the 12-year Compulsory Education, nor were you trained in a military technical school. How are you ever gonna pass? The Department of Defense is also enrolling cannon fodder marines. Why don’t you give that a try? I bet you every Marine Corps would welcome you with open arms!”
“If I pass the draft exam, then I’ll start off as a Technician Sergeant. That’s a higher starting point,” Xu Le replied sincerely after a short moment of ponder.
Feng Yu finally raised his head up and stared at the young lad with utter disbelief. Then he sighed with deep sorrow.
“You still haven’t given up that shameful dream of yours, have you?”
“Why would a dream be shameful?” Xu Le’s face shined with resolve. “The first dream of my life is to become an auxiliary officer of a space battleship. My second dream is to join the research branch of a big company at the Capital Star Circle, so I can live a good life.”
“The Feds are still at war with the Empire over in the Westwood District.” Feng Yu’s voice suddenly turned somewhat calm. “Forget your first dream. And as far as the second one goes, it’s actually not that difficult.”
They were both fast eaters, and by then Xu Le had started tidying up the table.
“The war has been going on for over sixty years. People here at the Eastwood Grand District have never seen any Empire guys, maybe with the exception of their diplomatic group on TV. What’s there to be afraid of?”
He paused for a second and then continued with a tone of frustration.
“I know I am not talented, I’ve studied for two years and the only thing I know how to make is an electric prod. But I know I really enjoy working with these machines. That’s why I want to give the draft exam a try.”
Feng Yu fell quiet. He lay down on the couch to watch TV, but his stares were actually still fixed on Xu Le’s back.
After washing the dishes, Xu Le entered the workshop room as usual, and soon began operating those tools and instruments that he was as familiar with as his fingers. At an unusually steady rate, he began fixing the pile of old and broken appliances, putting them back into working condition one by one.
The kind of common electronic appliance problems were not difficult to troubleshoot and overcome, but Xu Le still worked with the utmost earnestness, as if he was working on the most delicate and finest instrument in the entire Federation. Perhaps he never even noticed that every time when he fully devoted himself into his work, a brilliant trace of sincerity would shine on his adolescent face.
Uncle Feng Yu with stories lit a cigarette and then watched Xu Le’s busy figure through the glass wall with his narrowed eyes. It was probably time to lower the dust grade for another level, he thought to himself. Then he remembered the words Xu Le had said earlier. He couldn’t help but lift the corners of his mouth, and then blew a smoke ring.
The smoke ring scattered slowly and eventually disappeared into Feng Yu’s gray hair. At that exact moment, Feng Yu thought to himself: Everyone in the world calls me a genius, but in some aspects, this young lad named Xu Le has only got … more talents.

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Giant Gundam Mech Warrior Robot Statue Protecting Tokyo!!