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Strictly speaking, Luo Qiu was not considered an orphan because he had legal guardians and relatives.
It was his father’s second wife. Simply put, his stepmother.
However, this barely appeared in Luo Qiu’s life or in his conversations topics.
Because, he would prefer to acknowledged only one woman as his mother: the woman who took care of him around the clock, doing her utmost to give him a mother’s love.
Of course, if this new “mom” wasn’t too young, Luo Qiu would still be willing to call her “mother”. One has to understand, his stepmom could be considered to be in the prime of her age at the moment.
People are conditioned to run from heartache, and also conditioned to get used to the people around them.
Nobody yearns for loneliness.
“But why do I yearn for it?”
Luo Qiu had stuck a note with the characters “I’m out” on the fridge door. Since the weather wasn’t hot, he had gone out.
That was just because he wanted to be alone during his free weekends.
The street became noisy in the morning.
A father was taking his daughter out to play, and old couples joined hands, strolling along the river bank. Some were doing exercises to enjoy their lives, while others planned for their days.
All sorts of people passed by, as if they were actors in the opera house, playing their roles.
Luo Qiu was accustomed to observing things silently, to explore people’s hearts without excessively touching them. What was this?
Is this what they mean by having inner conflicts during late puberty ?
He just wanted to be alone… however, it became noisy nearby. Luo Qiu shook his head as he walked towards the shopping district that wasn’t open yet.
It was quiet now. Maybe he could have a good look at one or two pedestrians?
Listening to some unpopular songs through his earphones, Luo Qiu arrived at the shopping district.
As expected, the shops were all closed except for one or two stalls selling bread for breakfast.
Luo Qiu bought two steamed buns, then sat on a bench beside the street eating slowly… nobody seemed to notice him, though he looked weird alone.
— “Trafford’s Trading Club” —
This name suddenly came into Luo Qiu’s view.
Though he wouldn’t say he remembered everything he saw, but he would have at least remembered this weirdly named shop.
The shop sign was arranged one by one with separate words. A typical European style oil lamp was set on the left of the wooden door. As for the other side, there was a clear window.
Some bibelots could be seen through the window, which attracted Luo Qiu to come in.
There were splendidly dressed dolls, small-sized pendulum clocks that had stopped, grizzly-paw-like artworks and ratty but particularly attractive bucket hats.
“Excuse me, would you like to come in and have a look?”
While Luo Qiu was watching these strange decorations, a girl appeared in front of him. .
It was a girl with an abnormally waxy complexation which was about his age.
She was dressed in black and white—the eternal colors of a gothic maid costume gave off the aura of a morbid beauty. However, Luo Qiu was not able to focus on those.
Instead, he was attracted to her charming royal blue eyes, just like fantastic magical gems.
Like a vortex.
When Luo Qiu came back to himself, he had entered into this weird club already, and he didn’t even know why.
Just like the moment where a screen was switched during the movie.
“Sir, have some tea please.”
The slim girl served Luo Qiu a cup of scented tea.
“Roselle can make people feel calm. People are only able to think of what they need in a calm situation.”
“Oh… are you the only staff here?”
He didn’t know what to say, so he just relaxed. Anyway, window shopping was very common.
Nevertheless, Luo Qiu was curious about this weird shop.
He had no idea what this shop sold even though he came in.
“No, Master will have a talk with you soon.” The girl smiled slightly, then she left for the back room.
Master? Was that a hobby of the boss?
Luo Qiu nodded as he began to look around the objects in the shop.
Just like the display, everything was strange and gave off a feeling of oddity. Yet, the decorations didn’t seem to clash and just made it seem more mysterious.
The living room of the shop gave off a darker atmosphere as a whole, as though it was a western fortune telling shop. Instead of incandescent lamps, white long candles were stuck in the candle holder.
Seemed like the owner had spent much thought on it.
The wait was longer than he thought, but his curiosity kept him. His attention then turned to the objects in the display cabinet.
There were two scarlet beads fixed up and down by a holder; they seemed to be some kind of jewels which were left in a delicate vitreous container.
Without knowing why, Luo Qiu regarded them as moons in the night sky, two scarlet moons. When he thought about it, Luo Qiu cracked a smile.
“Do you like this pair of ‘Scarlet Moons’?”
Another sound was heard, seemed like it came from the so-called “Master”.
Luo Qiu turned around; he saw a tidy and neatly-dressed middle-aged man—to be more accurate, a foreign middle-aged man.
Different from the girl, his eyes were a cloudy grey…In addition, he was exceptionally fluent in the local language; just by hearing his voice, one couldn’t tell that he was a foreigner.
Besides, the man’s handsome appearance also attracted attention…
“I was just having a look,” Luo Qiu answered subconsciously.
Both the boss and the girl gave Luo Qiu a mysterious feel.
Just then, the boss smiled slightly, then he walked to the display cabinet and took out the vitreous container gently.
He looked at Luo Qiu and said, “This pair of ‘Scarlet Moons’ is an item that belonged to the clansmen of a tribe living in the mainland of ancient Latin American. Their eyeballs would become a beautiful scarlet once they experienced unbearable sadness, indignation or delight. It also releases amazing light under the moonlight. Of course, this tribe also went extinct… because of their beautiful eyes. These may be the only ‘Scarlet Moons’ left.”
Were these eyeballs?
Luo Qiu stared blankly, he felt like he was listening to a nonsensical story, and he even listened to the end.
But the boss’s words were unexpected, so Luo Qiu asked: “How much would you sell this precious treasure for?”
The boss smiled and said: “The price needs to be fixed by the customer, because this is the Trading Club… So if you want to get this pair of ‘Scarlet Moons’, please take out something you feel worthy in exchange for it. One more thing, we don’t accept any form of currency.”
So… this was a lunatic shop opened by a lunatic man?
“Don’t you like it?”
The boss wasn’t disappointed. He put the item back, took Luo Qiu’s arm and sat down. “Then let us have a conversation, what do you need?”
“What I need…” Luo Qiu laughed, “I don’t even know what’s sold here.”
Luo Qiu shook his head and stood up, saying: “Sorry, there seems to be nothing I need… Of course, this shop is certainly special, so I will come again if I’m available.”
“You can buy whatever you want… Of course, with a price. So… what would you like?”
With a smile on his face, the boss sat there quietly and looked at Luo Qiu with extreme confidence.
It seemed today was not going to be boring as usual.
Luo Qiu looked at the boss’s eyes and was lost in thought for a moment.
What did he really want?
Luo Qiu thought about it subconsciously… He felt comfortable in this quiet atmosphere.
Here… was like another world, he could see pedestrians outside… Yet, they could never see him.
He could observe everyone alone like this…
“This place… I would like this place.”
Luo Qiu slowly spoke out his mind.
In just a moment, he came back to his senses, feeling everything was inconceivable here, then he broke into a cold sweat.
Suddenly, the boss looked at him strangely, he seemed joyful, expectant, but seemed more… anxious.
“Dear Guest, one of the rules of ‘Trafford’s Trading Club’ is that, once you said what you want, the transaction will take place. If you didn’t say what you wanted to exchange it for, then I’ll name the price. So… just as you wanted, I’m going to sell you the ‘Trafford’s Trading Club’ in exchange for your freedom as the transaction fee…”
The world seemed to have turned upside down, darkness filled the surroundings.
An ancient goatskin slowly unfolded in front of Luo Qiu. Nothing could be clearly seen except for his name which slowly appeared.
And then, everything was burning.
The darkness swallowed him…
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