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Furongwang and I, These Past Ten Years—An Essay Concerning the Effects of Inflation and Economic Development on Smokers

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Abstract: “Furongwang” is a famous cigarette brand, produced in China’s Province Y, City K factories and sold across the country. In the past ten years, the Chinese economy has grown rapidly and influenced all aspects of people’s lives in society. The author uses price changes in Furongwang over the last decade as their starting point, without any data collection or sample surveys. It is worthless as a reference and fundamentally unfit to serve as a pretext for any reports concerning the effects of societal development on people’s lives.

Keywords: Ye Xiu, cigarettes, Furongwang, inflation, why haven’t wages gone up, all the money spent on cigarettes is enough to buy a flat in City B





1 Regarding the evolution of smokers

1.1 Analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of smoking for adolescent maturation

“Nicotine.”

“Eh?” Ye Qiu was standing in the corner just then, furtively conducting his grand experiment, when a faint but incomparably familiar voice rang out behind him.

“Nicotine and tar, they’re bad for your health.” Ye Xiu’s hand crossed over Ye Qiu’s shoulder. They seemed like two brothers in perfect harmony, but then he snatched away the still unlit cigarette Ye Qiu had been holding between his fingers.

Ye Qiu tried to fight back at first, but it was a futile effort. Ye Xiu didn’t just snatch away his cigarette—he also reached into Ye Qiu’s coat, and made off with the whole pack of cigarettes before Ye Qiu could react.

“So, your older brother will just brave the pain to help you bear the harm.” Ye Xiu held the cigarette. “Huh, Furongwang. How much was it? Where’d you get the money to buy it?”

“My pocket money...” Ye Qiu wasn’t ready to give up, and reached out to grab the cigarette. But then Ye Xiu turned around and walked away.

Ye Qiu almost died from anger.

In the evening, he went back and said to his shameful brother: “You took away my cigarettes, can’t you return my pocket money?”

“All right,” Ye Xiu said without the least hesitation.

Ye Qiu cheered up for about a second before he heard, “But I don’t have any money right now.”

“Where did all your money go?” Ye Qiu was astonished.

“I spent it all in the internet cafe,” Ye Xiu said without any shame.

“You…” Ye Qiu was just about to ask Ye Xiu what he’d been doing at the internet cafe . But before he could finish speaking, Little Dot—who had snuck into the room at some point—started scrabbling at Ye Xiu’s trouser legs with her claws.

“I’m going to go walk the dog.” Ye Xiu seized the opportunity to slip away. By the time Ye Qiu threw on his coat and ran to the door, Ye Xiu had already walked far enough that all Ye Qiu saw was his back. Only a faint flickering spark revealed his location. That was the cigarette he held in his mouth.

Ye Qiu suddenly had a very ominous feeling.

He thought his brother might be addicted.





1.2 Comparison of an adolescent’s smoking habit and their financial situation

Su Mucheng had to be up early in the morning for school. When she got out of bed, Su Muqiu was still asleep; she bit down on a pouch of milk and headed out. She happened to run into the auntie living next door, who’d just come back from buying vegetables at the morning market, so she lent a hand to help carry the groceries in.

The auntie praised her. “Little girl, you have such a good heart. I suddenly felt so dizzy when I was at the market today. Luckily, I met a young man who helped me over to the side to rest.”

Overly susceptible to sentiment, she then sighed. “But it looked like his situation wasn’t good either. I heard the sellers say he didn’t have a place to stay, and had just been sitting on the steps outside for the whole night. I gave him a little money right away so he could buy some breakfast to eat.”

Su Mucheng was rather more disapproving deep down in her heart. She thought to herself that if the boy was really so poor, then he could still earn quite a lot like her brother did by level-boosting for other players—so why should he be in such dire straits? The auntie was still prattling away at Su Mucheng about how she ought to study hard and earn a fortune in the future. Su Mucheng glanced at the time; her bus was about to arrive, so she hurriedly said goodbye to her neighbor and ran tap tap tap down the stairs.



When she brought Su Muqiu his meal in the afternoon, Su Mucheng met an unexpected guest. This person won against her brother, whom she believed was already so amazing; after they finished eating, he was dragged home by her brother to continue their battles. Su Muqiu loudly demanded match after match, saying this time I’ll definitely win, and then lost again and again. But he still refused to give in, and went so far as to let this guy sleep at their place for the night, saying that they’d continue tomorrow.

When Su Mucheng carried over a quilt for their guest, he was lighting a cigarette in the room just then, and hastily pinched off its lit end as he saw her enter. Su Mucheng wasn’t actually all that averse to smoking, but she suddenly thought of something. “Didn’t you have no money to go online? You’ve still got money to buy cigarettes?”

Ye Xiu said, “Oh, this morning a very kind auntie gave me a little money.”

Su Mucheng thought to herself: God, this person is such trash!

Su Mucheng said, “Oh, then rest well.”

Su Mucheng closed the door. As she turned off the lights, she thought that she wouldn’t see him again when she woke up the next day. Too many transient travelers had passed through her life: the parents who had given birth to them but whom she’d never met, the auntie in the orphanage, the landlords and neighbors they encountered every time they moved… She didn’t expect, to her own surprise, that she would know this person for more than ten years. His smoking never stopped, and his character never changed.





2 Elementary analysis of smoking as a means of social connection

2.1 Analysis of a City Q survey sample

“Achoo!” sneezed the passenger who had just boarded. He stuck his hand into his pocket in search of tissues, but then his face turned ugly. “Fuck, where’s my wallet?!”

It wasn’t just his wallet; even his cell phone and keys had been stolen. With an unsightly expression, the passenger sat down and clapped the shoulder of the person sitting next to him. “Buddy, let me borrow your phone for a moment. I’m going to text that asshole thief. Whatever else he stole doesn’t matter, but I’m going to see Tyranny’s exhibition match today and he even stole my ticket while he was at it. I need to make him give it back.”

That guy laughed lightly. “I don’t have a cell phone.”

“There are still people nowadays who don’t have cell phones?” The passenger was stunned. “How have you survived all this time?”

“I just use the computer, and if anything happens I can be in touch over QQ. But it’s useless for sure if you call—what kind of thief would be so foolish as to give stuff back? Here, have a cigarette—isn’t it just a match?” The man handed over a cigarette to him.

“It’s not the same!” This Tyranny fan was very agitated as he slapped his thigh. “Even though it’s an internal event this time at Tyranny, a friend of mine got some reliable info and said that Ye Qiu’s coming too. I’ve waited some years for him! I was about to head to the back door and lie in wait to ambush him. Look, I’ve even got my stick ready.”

He felt along his lower back, and suddenly grew angry. “How’d he even steal my nunchucks?!”

The other guy couldn’t help but laugh, so much so that his cigarette-holding hand was trembling. He kindly took a few paper bills from his wallet. “Then just go buy a scalped ticket in a bit, and remember to look where Ye Qiu’s sitting.”

At this point, the passenger was a little embarrassed. “This won’t do—ah, what’s your name? I’ll go home in a moment and repay you.”

“My name’s Ye Xiu,” that person said.

“Sounds like your accent’s not from here, are you in our City Q for fun?”

“Mm.” Someone else in the car coughed a few times; Ye Xiu put out his cigarette. “I just happened to be bored. My friend’s too unkind, I’ve already lost to him but he still insisted on straight up inviting me over. I thought, fine then—might as well study their new talent.”

The passenger had just borrowed Ye Xiu’s money, so he naturally wanted to say a few words on Ye Xiu’s behalf: “Pfft! It doesn’t matter, so what’s one loss? Sooner or later you’ll win against them, right? Look at our Captain Han, hasn’t he lost quite a few times to Ye Qiu, and got beaten down as usual this year!”

Ye Xiu didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Are you really a fan…”

“Sometimes, winning or losing is all about when the time is right.” The Tyranny fan patted Ye Xiu’s shoulder. “Just who could go on as the invincible general? Still, we aren’t blind after all; we can see how they put their hearts into it.”

He was just about to launch into an impassioned speech, but the bus had arrived at his stop; he turned in a rush, about to get off, but then suddenly thought of something and shoved the money back into Ye Xiu’s hands. “I’ve been thinking, I really can’t take this money—I won’t be able to find you to return it! Really, you’re too kind, how can you just lend money to someone you meet along the way?”

The driver honked the horn in discontent, so he hastened to jump off the bus. The cigarette Ye Xiu had given him was still held in his hand as he waved at Ye Xiu.

Ye Xiu found this rather touching, though also rather ridiculous. Contrary to expectations, this freak occurrence with a stranger in a strange city was truly a kind of comfort. Ye Xiu leaned against the window, and thought about lighting the cigarette again in his raised hand.

But in the instant when it lit up, he froze mid-act.

He’d passed his stop...





2.2 Survey sample of City H Team Happy members

Famed detective Chen Guo pushed a nonexistent pair of glasses up the bridge of her nose, and asked very seriously, “The Kumamon on that table—just who put it there?”

Ye Xiu wasn’t in, for he’d gone out to buy cigarettes. But this didn’t matter much, because Chen Guo had eliminated him from the list of suspects at the very beginning. Such things like these stuffed dolls didn’t fit with Ye Xiu at all.

The Kumamon sat innocently on the table and smiled foolishly at Chen Guo with its open mouth. It even wore matching black and red colors, the spitting image of an undercover mole planted by Tyranny.

Wei Chen was fighting over youtiao with Fang Rui right then, and bit down on one as he said, “Ah, it wasn’t me, this toy’s got nothing to do with me. I bet it’s probably Fang Rui, just look at how honest those bear’s eyes are…”

Of course, it wasn’t Fang Rui. He wasn’t the only one ruled out; the remaining male team members all declared their innocence.

“If it’s none of us,” Chen Guo said to herself, “then I’m going to call it unknown goods and confiscate it.”

Chen Guo waited for Su Mucheng and Tang Rou to get up; she didn’t have to wait long for the two of them to promptly state they had nothing to do with it. That said, they were very interested in keeping this doll if there was no owner. But a single bear wasn’t easy to split. Steamed Bun was especially zealous, and came over holding a kitchen knife to help them divide it into thirds.

Chen Guo declined Steamed Bun’s well-intentioned offer. As Steamed Bun kept insisting, “Lady boss it’s fine you don’t have to be polite,” Ye Xiu returned, carrying two cartons of Furongwang.

And two bears.

“Fuck.” Wei Chen stood up. “Lao Ye, it wasn’t enough for you to buy just one—you even bought this toy in bulk?”

Ye Xiu seemed very much at a loss. “They were giving out bears with the cigarettes, buy one get one.”

So he’d bought three cartons.

As the three women unabashedly split the bears among themselves, they went on criticizing Ye Xiu. “Buying so many cigarettes, are you making cigarettes your meals?”

Ye Xiu said, “But it’s cold. If I buy more, I don’t have to go out as often.”

Chen Guo sighed. She’d discussed Ye Xiu’s bad smoking habit with Su Mucheng before, and had gone through the motions of considering how to make Ye Xiu abstain. But whenever she’d dock Ye Xiu’s wages, he’d turn right around and bring her a daily expense receipt to request reimbursement.

“Well, I can’t give it up,” Ye Xiu said with conviction. “This thing’s pretty energizing.”

If he couldn’t give it up, he couldn’t give it up; he hadn’t stopped in the past ten years, so it seemed that he’d just keep on smoking.



After he finished eating, he went on QQ. A chat window from Chang Xian flashed quite a few times. In the end, he wasn’t pursuing Ye Xiu with interview requests, but had messaged him with several links:

Chang Xian 9:15:00
Ye-shen, the response has been incredibly huge since you appeared for the first time a few days ago. Our Esports Home made a poll for “The Ye-shen in your heart—what is he like?” so if you’re free you can take a look ha!

Chang Xian 9:18:21
We’re going to decide on a winner, if there’s any one that you find particularly pleasing just give me a heads up!! After all, you’re the authority here, haha

Chang Xian 9:30:18
That… I only just saw it, the editor wanted to bump up the numbers so he put out my old blog, no need to pay attention to it...

Chang Xian 9:35:33
Forget about it just pretend you didn’t see it!!!! I’m bothering you too much I’m sorry!!!!





3 Sample of a non-smoker’s perspective on smokers (Chang Xian, reporter)

3.1 “The Ye-shen in your heart” submission

Before I even started to play Glory, I already wanted to interview Ye Qiu. Really.

This was mainly because of my girlfriend. When we first started dating, she heard that I was a student in the journalism department and asked me if I could look out for news on Ye Qiu, explaining that he was her idol. Back then, I spent all day long talking myself up in front of her about how I’d even interviewed more than a dozen government leaders, so how could I admit any panic? Though I didn’t know at all who this Ye Qiu was, I still thumped my chest and agreed.

As for me, I was very gung ho at the time. Although I didn’t have an account card, I did find a member of Excellent Era—he was my friend’s friend’s uncle’s son. But after I’d had a few meals with him, I’d learned all the latest dramas that Su Mucheng was following but still couldn’t learn anything about Ye Qiu. When I pressured him with more urgency, he just said that this affected the very matter of his livelihood, and couldn’t say anything even if he were beaten to death.

In the end, I coerced and cajoled him for a long time, but the only bit of information I got was that Ye Qiu liked to smoke cigarettes. If he smelled a lingering cigarette odor when he went to the training room in the early morning, then it meant that Ye Qiu had come by in the middle of the night.

So I told this to my girlfriend. With her face framed in her hands, she said that men who loved smoking were all very handsome, and maybe he was like Tony Leung—as if she was looking through bias glasses ten inches thick. She didn’t think about how she usually wanted to stay at least three meters away from any smokers whenever we went out.

Later, I was influenced by her and started to play Glory. At the beginning, there were some places that I couldn’t play through no matter what, so I went online to download some guides and soon got past them. I said, Damn, what great god wrote these guides?

It was Ye Qiu.

I felt that Glory players were bound to have some attachment to Ye Qiu even if they weren’t Excellent Era fans, because the vast majority of them had used his guides and read his analyses. But the wave of players I was part of wasn’t very lucky, because we hadn’t experienced his golden age firsthand. When I was playing Glory, the championship no longer belonged to Excellent Era, and my girlfriend had long since broken up with me. Against all reason, at that time, I finally felt some real interest in Glory. When I went job-hunting, I even sent my resume to Esports Home—I thought that, if there was any chance, I had to interview Ye-shen.

On the second day of my onboarding, Excellent Era announced that Ye Qiu was retiring.

At first, I thought I’d never have a chance again. I had a lot of work, but once in a while I’d look at our magazine’s published material. Compared to other God-level players, Ye Qiu had miserably few interviews—only a QQ interview that didn’t even have his picture. As for the content...

I certainly wasn’t calling my senior’s interview abilities into question. The root cause of this confounding barebones content hardly lay with him. I always felt that Ye-shen was hiding himself from start to end, not revealing his true self; he didn’t show up to give statements, nor was his playstyle gorgeous.

Later, I contacted Team Happy and actually did get to interview him. Except he wasn’t Ye Qiu, but Ye Xiu.

Ye Xiu ran his mouth off with glib words like a runaway train, and spoke in half-jests and half-truths. It was only when we suddenly came to one topic, about how the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella was made, that he said, “I once had a friend,” and seemed visibly moved for a half-second. I plucked up my spirit and tensed myself, in full expectation, holding the recorder in my hand with a death-grip, but then his remaining words turned everything around and landed like a stone, coming to an abrupt end.

He wasn’t willing to say more.

He even hid away stories of old times, whether they were stories of dire straits and misery or stories of success and splendor, plus past events that people weren’t to know. As pro players gradually moved toward the idolization of today, he truly seemed out of place.

So, whenever someone runs over to ask me, I heard you interviewed Ye-shen face to face, what’s he like, I always feel a little hesitant. I always think of that moment when I heard Ye Xiu’s reply, and asked in astonishment, “That’s all?”

The smoke was rising, obscuring my sight, and I couldn’t see his expression clearly. All this time, Ye Xiu has been that living god of Glory within the dim and hazy smoke.



The second “interview” was a year after Ye Qiu’s retirement. I gave Chen Guo-jie a call and said that Ye Qiu had already retired for a year, so he could return now. After I hung up, I suddenly remembered that Esports Home had assigned me to City H this time last year to help conduct interviews. That day, an unexpected snowstorm hit City H. I’d had a hard time walking and hauling my luggage through the snow; as a graduate fresh out of university who was trying to earn a living alone in another part of the country, it was difficult to escape from the ups and downs in my heart, and I felt as if I was suffering a great hardship. When I caught sight of the falling snow, it left me with even more mixed feelings.

I think… Ye-shen, that day, must have also left Excellent Era by himself, amidst the pure white snow in the great unknown, and walked all alone while smoking half a cigarette.

In that phone call, Chen Guo said that Ye Qiu “will definitely be back.” After more than a year in my post, I always hoped for this as well.

And now, at last, he’s returned.



I always think of that snowy night, again and again. The night was very dark; but the sky was especially clear in the crisp cold, and the stars were glimmering. Perhaps people’s dreams are just like smoke; once they’re addicted to burning, they burn all the way to the ends of the starry sky. And I kept walking ahead.

The road is so long, and so hard.

Yet still we must go forward.





References:

[1] Esports Home, Issue 1234

[2] Glory forums: It’s said that Ye Qiu likes Furongwang, Ye fans hurry and send your gifts to Excellent Era!

[3] Glory On the Scene: Upon returning from the World Invitational, the team is met by frenzied fans with welcome banners. Ye-shen’s twin brother unexpectedly appears, and tearfully accuses, You still haven’t paid back the cigarette money you owe me

[4] Team Happy Financial Affairs: how many receipts did Ye Xiu submit for the reimbursement of cigarette money

[5] Excellent Era and I: The Story That Must Be Told—An Exposé of Past Events With Young Ye Xiu, UK Oxbridge University Press, Tao Xuan