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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
At dusk, there were more than a dozen bookstalls in the alley.
Some vendors laid their books on a rag above a plastic sheet on the ground, while some had mobile carts selling pirated books, cassette tapes, CDs, and so on. They sold mini radios too.
The sky had not turned completely dark, but there were already patrons like Lin Sheng and Sheng Yan hanging around in the alley. There were not many people yet, nonetheless, the atmosphere was pretty lively. People just liked to spend time there, and they never thought of leaving. Some even squatted and read books in front of the bookstalls.
There was only a single light source, which was a high-powered light bulb without a lampshade, above the alley. The light bulb appeared to have 100 watts of output as it illuminated the entire place.
Shen Yan enthusiastically maneuvered past the small crowd and came before the first bookstand.
She was a veteran. Knowing that bookstalls usually did not display the adult magazines in prominent places, she immediately locked on to the hidden spots where the vendors kept their adult materials.
Lin Sheng left her alone and went to search for dictionaries.
While he was still at the first bookstall, Shen Yan had already moved on to the third. Despite that, Lin Sheng was not in a hurry. He searched carefully, and when he did not find the Rehn dictionary he wanted, he moved on to the next stall.
Lin Sheng vaguely remembered that the stalls there had it. The translation dictionaries may have been pirated copies, but they would save him a lot of money.
So, he went to stall after stall and soon reached the fourth one. In a pile of books on the floor, Lin Sheng found what he wanted: a Rehn dictionary.
“How much is this?” Lin Sheng squatted down and pulled out the dictionary from the pile of old books.
“Fifteen. No bargaining.” It seemed that the stall owner with square glasses and a gray fabric mask did not want people to see his face.
“The texts are blurry. I’ll buy it for ¥5,” Lin Sheng counteroffered.
“You can’t get it for ¥5. At least ¥10, kid. You seem to be a regular here, you should know the price,” the stall owner said.
“Ten?” Lin Sheng shook his head and got to his feet, pretending to leave.
“All right, all right, five then. Take it.” The stall owner accepted the counteroffer.
“Here you go.” Lin Sheng quickly took out the small bills from his pocket and paid the stall owner ¥5.
Picking up the dictionary, he checked it thoroughly. The printing was clear. It was an excellent reproduction and was as thick as a brick. A pirated book like that usually fetched around ¥20. After all, genuine ones were sold at about ¥40. He got it for so cheap only because it was not popular. Not many people looked for Rehn dictionaries. It was also the only Rehn dictionary in the stall. Plus, the crux of the matter was, the pages were about to fall apart since the binding was about to give way.
“It doesn’t matter.
“As long as it’s useable,” Lin Sheng said to himself. He could not wait to go home to begin translating the text. The ¥5 he spent was way more than his daily budget; he would have to be extra frugal from then on. After spending his money on a piece of scrap like that, he was having a headache. But if he could restore it, who knows, it might even appreciate in value.
Soon, Shen Yan came up to Lin Sheng with a bag load of books in her hands.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
“I’ve bought a dictionary.” Lin Sheng waved the dictionary in his hand. Its red cover and white spine were in stark contrast to the adult materials in Shen Yan’s bag.
“This is…” Shen Yan stared at Lin Sheng with a distorted face as if she was meeting him for the first time.
“If there’s nothing else, let’s go home,” Lin Sheng said.
“Nice guise!” Shen Yan’s mouth twitched. However, she knew Lin Sheng well; he had always been that way. It was one of the reasons why she liked to bring Lin Sheng along as her cover.
“Look, I bought three at ¥4 each, totaling to ¥12. Let’s divide the cost equally. All you need to pay me is ¥6,” Shen Yan said in a whisper.
“I have no money,” Lin Sheng said. He used to buy and rent these adult materials out for a little money. After all, most students in the school were not willing to spend money on such things because they were nice to read but difficult to hide.
Hence, people rented them for a few cents—they did not have to worry about where to hide the magazines, and it cost much less. Also, when there was not much to see and they got bored with the magazine, they could rent a different one.
Another reason why Shen Yan brought Lin Sheng along was that she was a girl; she needed Lin Sheng to be her frontman in the book-renting business.
“If you’re not paying, the renting part…” Shen Yan was in a pickle.
“You can rent it to girls,” Lin Sheng said.
“Boys are more willing to part with their money for this!” Lin Sheng had always been her cooperative business partner until now when he suddenly changed. So, Shen Yan was upset.
“You can resell them. I’ve been having some other stuff recently, and I don’t have time for this.” Lin Sheng did not want to continue the book-renting business. It would have still been acceptable to him had it been regular books, but adult magazines were too low-class.
“Are you sure you don’t want to continue? It could earn you a few bucks a day,” Shen Yan said.
“I don’t want to carry on.” Lin Sheng shook his head. “You’re a girl, it doesn’t look good on you. Just stop doing it for now.”
“Aren’t we partners?” Shen Yan felt helpless.
“I can help you get Yao Daiyu’s help,” Lin Sheng said.
Yao Daiyu was a student from another class, who also ran a book-renting business that included adult materials. He would be happy to take in the magazines on a consignment basis. After all, he had nothing to lose, and it also saved him the hassle of sourcing for books.
“Fine.” Shen Yan was still reluctant.
Lin Sheng looked at her and knew that she was not happy. But he could do nothing because she would not listen to him. Even though they were best friends, he had said everything he needed to say. The ball was now in her court.
The two parted ways at the alley and went home separately.
Once he arrived home, Lin Sheng saw the note that his parents left him, saying that they had gone to the hospital to take care of Grandpa. They left two dishes of food—a plate of scrambled eggs with cucumber and a plate of red pepper shredded pork—which had turned cold on the kitchen table.
Lin Sheng reheated the rice and quickly ate it with the cold dishes. Then he rushed into his bedroom with the dictionary to begin studying the text that he had memorized from his dream.
His bedroom was both a sleeping place and a study room.
It was nightfall, and Lin Sheng turned on the desk lamp to continue working on the Rehn text, word by word, under the yellowish light.
About half an hour later…
“Interesting!” Referring to the basic grammar rules found in the dictionary, Lin Sheng had quickly translated the two phrases on the cover of the book.
“It really is standard Rehn text! I’ve never seen this language before. Other than a little exaggeration in style, the two phrases are actually correct!”
Lin Sheng stared at the two phrases in front of him and was momentarily at a lost for words.
“So, the meaning of these two phrases should be…” Lin Sheng slowly wrote down the translated words, one at a time.
Sharp object. Long sword. Method. Note. Handbook.
“When reading them together in a sentence, it means ‘The Handbook of Swordsmanship’?” Lin Sheng’s eyes were wide open when he finally figured it out.
He had translated the Rehn text word by word, and the basic grammar of the language was not complicated. Often times, a letter may contain several meanings, but when the different letters were connected together, the result made Lin Sheng’s jaw drop.
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