First Published on Chaleuria
033 – Why should my little friend smile for you?
He Zhao didn’t seem to mind talking about himself at all.
He seemed not to care that his family was separated and that his mother had brought his sister out of the country. When they left, his sister had only been three years old. She hadn’t even been able to talk properly and had followed behind him mumbling ‘gege.’¹
Their first year in C Country, He Xi had still cried and yelled for her brother. But children forget quickly. As time went by, she grew up and went to school, and her brother became like the doll she wouldn’t put down as a child because she loved it so much—it became outdated and gradually retreated from center stage.
While explaining, He Zhao didn’t feel down. In fact, he felt fine. Thankfully, she had been young and could forget many things in the blink of an eye.
And embrace her new life.
Xie Yu wasn’t sure what to say, so he didn’t say anything at all.
“…I’ll say it again. It’s really not that tragic. This isn’t some heartbreaking soap opera about amnesia, she just isn’t close to me,” He Zhao said. “She’s pretty good at playing games. Every time I log in, her equipment and level—even the stinking man she’s with—is different. It’s quite impressive.”
He Zhao’s EQ was something special.
Xie Yu couldn’t tell whether to consider it high or low. All in all, he could probably be considered a drama king who had made up his mind to do things he himself considered emotionally moving.
For example, this matter—He Zhao’s little sister, far away in C Country, logged into a game and discovered that the level she couldn’t pass had been passed and the male character she had put a lot of effort into pursuing had run away.
This was yet another instance of He Zhao moving himself, moving heaven, and moving earth, but not being able to move the other party.
Xie Yu said, “You’re impressed? Do you feel especially touched when you think about it?”
He Zhao squatted by the flowerbeds and laughed. “Don’t say that. Maybe a little bit.”
Xie Yu had never been curious about other people’s stories. He only felt that He Zhao was a big idiot.
Maybe other people didn’t know, but Xie Yu knew everything. He had seen He Zhao play this idiotic game with his own eyes; he played in class, he played after class, and sometimes he sent Xie Yu screenshots in the middle of the night, asking him which of two pairs of shoes to pick.
Xie Yu should have thought: What damn business is this of mine? But he seemed to be possessed. Xie Yu wasn’t sure what he had been thinking either. He suddenly bent down, and by the time he came back to his senses his hand was already resting on He Zhao’s head.
Both of them were a little stunned.
He Zhao’s hair was short and it pricked Xie Yu’s hand.
Of the options ‘push him down’ and ‘immediately take your hand away, turn, and go,’ Xie Yu picked the latter. “I’m leaving.”
“Let’s go together.” He Zhao jumped down and followed, raising a hand to the top of his head as he walked. “Was there something on my head? What are you walking so quickly for?”
Xie Yu went back and took a shower. He didn’t even dry his hair. He squatted by his bed and stuck an arm under it, pulling out the suitcase underneath.
Inside were study materials. Mock exams and the notes he took in class, a whole box full of them. They usually lay quietly under his bed, under lock and key.
He thought that he could do some questions to calm down.
Xie Yu squatted by the luggage bag. He stared at it for several seconds, touching the cover of the 5-3. Then he looked up and out the window. In the dark night sky hung several faint stars. For some reason, he suddenly thought of He Zhao’s smile as he had squatted beneath the streetlights. Very bright, like it could tear apart the night.
He Zhao looked like he led a carefree life.
Xie Yu wondered where He Zhao found so many things to be happy about. Two days ago he had been so happy drinking soda that he got another bottle. He’d passed the bottlecap from the back of the classroom to the front to show off to Liu Cunhao and the others. “Just touch it… touch it! A day’s good luck starts from your big bro’s bottlecap.”
Xu Qingqing had been doing a mock exam and didn’t give him face. “What is this? You think you’re a koi?”²
“How can you say that, Qing-jie? You’re fortunate Zhao-ge doesn’t hit girls. Hey, Zhao-ge, I’m not like her. I’ll come support you.” Wan Da exaggerated as he spoke. “Ah, I’ve touched it. I feel its power. Heavens, this mysterious power from a different and ancient time—Zhao-ge, I’m a little thirsty. Can you give me this lucky bottlecap to keep?”
“Can’t.” He Zhao stuck out his hand to take it back. “I’m keeping it for my deskmate.”
But Xie Yu didn’t cherish it. When he walked into the classroom and saw the bottlecap, he said: “If you want to toss out trash, do it yourself.”
At this point, Xie Yu suddenly realized that recently he’d been hearing the words ‘He Zhao’ more and more.
Even Zhou Dalei had found out he had a handsome devil for a deskmate. When the two occasionally chatted on the phone, the conversation would suddenly come around to the handsome devil.
Zhou Dalei had noticed something was amiss and asked, “You two are close? Boss Xie, I’ve known you for so many years and this is the first time I’ve seen you make a friend. Why do I feel like a proud old dad?”
When Xie Yu and Gu Xuelan had first come to Black Water Street, Dalei had still been the boy king of Black Water Street. He was unbearably wild. He had watched the two of them, whose manners and bearings were so different from the misfits in this area, step down from the long-distance bus.
Although they had been on the road for more than forty hours and the travel had been hard, the two of them were still on high alert. Especially the younger one—his eyes seemed to conceal knives, so sharp they were. They seemed to be assessing everybody they landed on.
Dalei was young and still immature, and he thought Xie Yu was a girl when he saw him. He thought that this little girl was very pretty and had tossed a stone at her to show he liked her. The second day, when his dad and mom went to work, the ice-cold ‘little girl’ came on a revenge visit. His temper was unbearably hot, and he straight-up caught hold of Zhou Dalei, pinned him to the ground, and started beating him up. “You dare throw stones at me? Do you have any manners? Shall I teach you?”
Are we close? Xie Yu asked himself.
He and He Zhao… probably couldn’t be considered close.
Aside from the exciting monthly exams, the rest of the week passed uneventfully.
Only Xue Xisheng still refused to give up. Every day he came to see Xie Yu and He Zhao, hoping the two of them would join his study group to study and strive hard together to pull the class average up.
“43 points. That’s the distance between our average and Class 1’s.” Xue Xisheng wasn’t afraid of these two well-known gangsters. Or should it be said that even though he knew the gangsters would beat people up, he was willing to risk his life?
“As the study rep for our class, I cannot let this situation go on—Why don’t you like to study? Studying is so interesting. If we don’t study, what meaning is there in life? Please, believe me, and let’s give each other a chance.”
Xue Xisheng was like a Mad Dog, Jr. He Zhao wasn’t sure what to do about him and he couldn’t really beat him up, either. “Friend, I think it’s best we spare each other.”
Xie Yu, on the other hand, was willing to be vicious, and even used the all-purpose ten-word idiom, “It’s none of your business and none of my business.” But Xue Xisheng wasn’t affected at all and only repeated his words. “43 points. That’s the distance between our average and Class 1’s.”
With this one battle, Xue Xisheng made a name for himself, and Wan Da gave him the title ‘The man who stands at the top of Class 3’s food chain.’
“This is terrifying.” Seeing Wan Da’s reply text, Shen Jie looked up at the two gangsters who seemed to have taken root in Class 8. “…No wonder you two have been coming here so often recently. Big Bro Xie Yu, did you notice that our class is especially quiet lately?”
Xie Yu was sitting in a corner, looking down at his phone. He wasn’t sure how the conversation had come around to him. “Me?”
He Zhao was quite well-known and, after the incident of Yang Wenyuan, he had gained some positive repute in their class. Xie Yu was different; his intimidating image still remained.
Shen Jie said, “Yes. I haven’t seen you smile before. Smile a little to show you’re friendly? Everyone in class is trembling.”
Xie Yu looked up and saw that several people were indeed surreptitiously looking at him. But the moment they saw him looking in their direction, they furtively looked down again.
Xie Yu was about to say, ‘then let them tremble,’ but He Zhao suddenly spoke up. “Why should my little friend smile for you?”
Shen Jie’s brain suddenly short-circuited. “….Huh?”
Xie Yu’s hand stilled. The level he’d been playing had been going smoothly, but now that he’d stopped controlling his avatar, the figure fell into a ditch and the more than 2km of obstacles he’d passed already were now all in vain.
Shen Jie was very sure he hadn’t heard wrong. He was about to ask, “Zhao-ge, are you really jealous?” but He Zhao often cracked jokes and he wasn’t sure how sincere this actually was. He couldn’t let it go, but he also didn’t want to make things awkward, so he just laughed dryly. “Ha ha. Look, the sun is shining. It must be very hot outside.”
After he finished speaking, he felt that things had gotten even more awkward… or, more accurately, only he was embarrassed. The atmosphere around the two people beside him seemed a little more subtle…
Eventually, Xie Yu stood up and did something very in line with his intimidating image. He rolled up his sleeves, pointed at He Zhao, and said, “Come out.”
All of Class 8 trembled.
The class bell rang. Dean Jiang came looking for Old Tang and they walked out together. From the faculty office door, they could already see the two boys together. “What are the two of you doing? Hugging?”
Dean Jiang’s voice carried down the whole corridor, especially this very suggestive word ‘hugging.’ The students in the window seats of all the classes, 1 through 8, simultaneously turned and looked out the window.
Xie Yu was still gripping He Zhao’s collar, and He Zhao’s hand lay lightly on Xie Yu’s waist.
The last class on Friday was literature.
Tang Sen finished his lecture, closed his textbook, and gave a reminder. “That’s all the homework for this weekend. Don’t go nuts playing now that it’s the weekend… Live-in students, will you go home over the weekend? If you’re planning to stay in school, come here and put your name down.”
Xie Yu had slept on his desk all through class. Unwilling to go up alone, He Zhao poked his deskmate’s shoulder with a pen. “Are you going home for the weekend? Are you still mad?”
Xie Yu turned to him. “I held myself back from punching you. Don’t offer yourself up.”
He Zhao said, “You haven’t answered my question.”
“Yes, I’m going back,” Xie Yu said. “It’s my mom’s birthday. I have to go home this weekend.”