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Book 4 Chapter 9 – Fu Bo
Li Yiming steadied his breathing and pushed on the doorbell button again. This time, he was much more prepared and composed.
'Are you sure we got the right person this time?' As the door opened, Li Yiming asked Bai Ze once again.
'I'm positive.' Bai Ze sounded nervous, but she answered Li Yiming's question with conviction.
"You…?" Both Li Yiming and his neighbor were greeted with a look of surprise.
"I…" Another half-hearted attempt at asking a question.
It was the young man Li Yiming had met back at the airport, and he was genuinely surprised when he saw Li Yiming. 'A few days ago, it seemed like the last thing he wanted in the world was to have anything to do with me, and now he shows up at my door?'
"I'm your new neighbor. I live right above you, and I just wanted to come to say hello. I didn't think that it would end up being such a coincidence." After receiving Bai Ze's reassurance, Li Yiming quickly settled down and tried his best to fabricate an excuse. 'If what Bai Ze said is true, then this guy should be some kind of hidden sage. I don't think that he would bother doing something bad to me, would he…?'
"You live right above me? And you still remember me?" The young man seemed very excited by what Li Yiming had said.
"Of course. Do you mind if I come in?" Li Yiming was a little intimidated by the young man's intense gaze. 'When you act like that, it's pretty hard to forget, even if I wanted to…'
"Yes, yes. Of course. Please come inside." The young man hurried to offer his hospitality to Li Yiming. His over-friendliness made Li Yiming feel very uncomfortable; he would rather have had a ferocious beast open the door instead.
"I live alone so the apartment is a mess. Please sit wherever you'd like. I'll go get you some water." The young man led Li Yiming to the living room and hurried into the kitchen.
Li Yiming sat on the sofa without letting his guard down and looked around. 'Hmmm, the interior design is the exact same as my apartment. He says it's messy, but it looks pretty tidy to me, although the decorations are a bit old-fashioned. Solid-wood sofa, some Chinese paintings, and even a calligraphy passage about flowers and trees. Are you kidding me? This isn't messy at all! I bet this guy has some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Even the patterns on the teacups are perfectly aligned!'
"Please have some water. I usually don't have any guests, so I'm out of good tea." The young man came out of the kitchen with a thermos bottle in one hand and a cup in the other.
"Oh, don't worry about it. I'm just here to say hello and to make a new friend. I hope we'll be good neighbors." Li Yiming took the cup and answered politely. 'This guy might be on the same level as Mr. Kong. I can't lack manners.'
"Of course, of course. The saying goes that a distant relative isn't as helpful as a close neighbor. Since we're of the same age, I'm sure that we'll find a lot of things to talk about." The young man sat down next to Li Yiming and fixated his gaze on him.
"You know, I think that it was a nice coincidence for us to have been on the same plane, and to have met again in that noodle shop. And now, we live in the same apartment! Speaking of which, I forgot to give you my thanks for reminding me about the cake. I would have forgotten about it otherwise." Li Yiming avoided looking at the young man as he spoke and picked a topic that would open up a conversation.
"So you really do remember me?" The young man was pleasantly surprised when he heard Li Yiming retell their past encounters.
Li Yiming did not know how to answer him. 'Is it that weird that I remember you? We've met a couple of times in such a short period of time… Unless…' Li Yiming remembered about Mr. Kong's technique, and his heart skipped a beat. 'Maybe I shouldn't have said that?'
"Everyone I've met over the last few years usually forget about meeting me right away. I'm just a little excited that you still remember about me." The young man explained nervously, but he seemed miserable when he did.
"Everyone forgets about meeting you?" Li Yiming asked. 'Isn't that Mr. Kong's technique?'
"Well you know, strange things happen in this world. Anyways, enough about that. What's your name? My name is Fu Bo." The sadness on the young man's countenance was replaced by a gentle smile as he extended his right hand in Li Yiming's direction.
"Li Yiming." It was a routine handshake that did not mean anything in particular. However, Li Yiming did notice that there was a big callus near the bottom of his palm. 'Is this guy a shut-in? These kind of things usually appear when you use the computer for too long.'
"Li Yiming?" Fu Bo's seemed both perplexed and amused when he heard Li Yiming's name.
"What is it?" Fu Bo's attitude unsettled Li Yiming. 'Is there something wrong with my name?'
"It's nothing. Just out of curiosity, are you from Hangzhou?" Fu Bo took a deep breath and tried his best to appear composed.
"I'm from Lishui, actually. I moved to Hangzhou for college. I attended Hangzhou Teachers' College, what about you?" Li Yiming answered truthfully in a show of goodwill. 'This guy looks a little younger than me. Unless he did something to his appearance, he should still be in school.'
"I was born and raised in Hangzhou. I heard Hangzhou Teacher's College is quite the prestigious school." Fu Bo smiled, but he did not answer Li Yiming's question. Instead, he seemed a little dejected.
"You live alone?" Li Yiming read Fu Bo's mood and switched the topic of the conversation. 'It doesn't look like he's living alone from the way things are set in the apartment, but everything else tells me that he is. Weird.'
"Yeah. I've been living alone for quite a few years now." Fu Bo looked around. It was obvious to any onlooker that he was unhappy about it.
'He's showing his emotions? Is he acting or is he actually…?'
"Well, I'm living alone too, so hopefully we can become good friends." Li Yiming tried his best to answer Fu Bo in a way that would open up the conversation further and build up their friendship. After seeing the sincerity in Fu Bo's answers, he could now at least cope with how Fu Bo had shown an unusual amount of interest in him.
"Really?" Fu Bo grinned. Unlike the strange smile of anticipation Li Yiming had seen before, this one seemed to be one of bliss.
Li Yiming continued his careful maneuver and, just like a psychologist, he used well-crafted dialogue to stimulate Fu Bo. This produced a very positive result, and he soon gained Fu Bo's trust as the conversation shifted to much more personal matters.
Instead of finding answers to the questions he had, Li Yiming ended up being more confused than he was. 'This kid, he looks like he's desperate for some kind of social interaction, and it's so easy to make him spill all of the beans, with just a little shove in the right direction…'
Li Yiming slowly came to know more and more about Fu Bo's past. 'Unless he's lying to me right now, then my guess was correct. But then, what about that strange domain?' This was the main concern that Li Yiming still had.
Fu Bo was twenty-four years old, barely a year younger than him. Five years ago, his parents died in a plane accident while on public duties abroad. Fu Bo was in high school at the time, and the only positive thing in all of this misfortune was that his family was fairly affluent. His parents had a business and owned real estate in Hangzhou, so at least poverty was not an immediate concern.
However, strange occurrences happened right after Fu Bo's parents' funeral. As he returned to school, still heartbroken by the incident, he found out that everyone there seemed to have forgotten about his existence. His teacher even brought him to the administrator's office and only allowed him to return to the classroom with disbelief after he showed them his ID and student card.
What was even worse was that even his relatives, those who had cherished him ever since he was born and had sworn to take good care of him at his parents' funeral, also completely forgot about him.
Bo Fu ended up having to live a life of solitude without anyone to rely on. However, owing to the optimistic and resilient character his parents had instilled in him, he managed to endure the last five years.
"So you've lived in complete isolation for five years?" Li Yiming could not help but feel some pity for Fu Bo, who looked like he had been through many hardships despite being so young.
"How else?" Fu Bo shrugged his shoulders. Five years was enough to make most people used to anything.
"So what do you do usually?" Li Yiming could hardly imagine a life devoid of any kind of social interaction in a modern city.
"I'm writing a novel to kill time."
"Oh really? You're an author?" Li Yiming raised his voice and tried his best to lighten up the mood.
"Not really an author. Someone who likes reading online novels at most." Fu Bo smiled, a little embarrassed; Li Yiming's tactic worked brilliantly.
"Really? Online? That's great, I love to read them too! Where do you uploading to?" Li Yiming asked with a grin.
"On Zongheng, but the viewership numbers are… you know."
"Really, even online?" Li Yiming felt sorry for Fu Bo, but it was not terribly surprising. After all, if everyone who read about the novel forgot about it after a few days, then it would be doomed no matter how well written it was.
"I'm used to it. I'm not counting on it to make money. It's just for killing time." Fu Bo waved his hand, not looking very affected.
"What's the name of the novel? I'd love to support you!"
"'Adventure to the East'. Hopefully, you'll be the first reader to finish the book." Fu Bo smiled bitterly.
"Is it finished?"
"Yeah. I finished the first book last year, and I'm writing the second one, but I haven't uploaded it yet. Do you know why I was so surprised the first time I saw you?" Bu Fo asked with the exact same intense gaze that unsettled Li Yiming at the airport.
"Why?" Li Yiming was a little nervous.
"It's because you're the real-life version of the main character for my second novel. You know, I've never met you before, and I sure didn't know about you when I thought about the book. Even your names is the same. I thought that you walked out of my book the first time I saw you," Bo Fu said.
"Really?" Li Yiming was dumbfounded. 'So that's why he looked at me that way? And I thought he had other thoughts…'
"Of course. I'll send you the book when it comes out. I'm sure you'll be surprised."
"Alright then, if we really are the same, I'll go buy a bunch of commenting bots and make you famous."