First Published on Chaleuria
051 – Fuck, young love
He Zhao didn’t say anything for a long time.
The idiot probably didn’t expect that he would still be standing there with all limbs intact. He usually had so many canned responses up his sleeve, but now he stood there like a mute, pinning Xie Yu against the door and staring at him.
Xie Yu wasn’t aware that He Zhao was currently thinking, Damn, these fireworks have been going off for a long time. Why are they not yet done?
Xie Yu’s wrist was still trapped in his hand and Xie Yu pulled a little. “Have you looked enough?”
Hearing Xie Yu’s voice, He Zhao came back to himself. He couldn’t help smiling a little, then widely. He repeated, “No, I haven’t looked enough.”
Xie Yu’s words, “You provoked me first,” were originally going to be followed by, If you just want to try something novel and fun, then I have no free time to play with you.
He wasn’t sure what exactly He Zhao’s ‘like’ counted for, so he chose to defend himself. Almost pessimistically, he wanted a clean conclusion.
He even thought He Zhao would back off.
But He Zhao had not.
He had said that his feelings were very serious; the sort of like where he wanted to date him.
Xie Yu felt he’d been infected by He Zhao. He started smiling, too, and couldn’t force the corners of his lips down even if he tried. Very silly. So he moved his hand, opened the door, and started to leave. “I’m going back.”
He Zhao didn’t hold him back but once he had taken two steps out of the room, He Zhao called out to him again from behind. “Xie Yu.”
Xie Yu opened the door to his room, turned back and leaned against the doorframe to look up at He Zhao.
He Zhao wasn’t done and called his name again.
Xie Yu was a little annoyed now and almost said, “Are you calling a spirit?”
He Zhao stood at the opposite door. The zip of his black jacket was only pulled up halfway, a rebellious look. Xie Yu only now noticed that he had secretly put on ear studs.
He Zhao said, “Nothing. Just getting used to my boyfriend’s name.”
These words sounded familiar, as if Xie Yu had heard them somewhere before. Before he could react, He Zhao continued, “Let’s take care of each other in the future, boyfriend.”
He remembered now.
On the first day of school, He Zhao had sat in the last row and called his name this way, too. Saying, languidly, “Getting used to my new deskmate’s name… Let’s take care of each other in the future, deskmate.”
Now He Zhao was saying these words again, but the relationship had changed from ‘deskmate’ to ‘boyfriend.’
What a strange feeling.
As if they had come full circle.
The two of them stood in their doorways, staring at each other, for a long time.
This felt a little like young lovers on the phone saying, “Goodnight, I’m hanging up,” even as neither of them hung up, both being silly and listening to each other’s quiet breathing instead.
“Go on in,” He Zhao said. “Rest early.”
Xie Yu turned, went into his room, and shut the door.
Xie Yu took a shower and did several mock papers. He thought he would be unable to concentrate, but when he put pen to paper and started doing sums, he found he was fine.
He picked several questions, finished them, then flipped the page. When he had finished the paper for each subject, he looked up from the sea of questions and discovered it was nearly 11 p.m.
Only when he closed his eyes and got ready to sleep did he suddenly clearly feel… his own heartbeat, which had not yet calmed down.
Before falling asleep, the last thought that surfaced in Xie Yu’s mind was, Fuck, young love.¹
The next day, Dean Jiang punctually broadcast his event as scheduled in the morning. He was never late and never absent. With his voice, he infused all the students in the dormitories with energy. “Students, it’s a new day. Are you happy?”
The moment Dean Jiang started speaking, someone had already pulled their covers over their head and groaned, “Ah… heavens…”
“This is inhumane…”
“Why is life like this to us helpless children?”
Dean Jiang was ignorant of the terrible state inside the school dorms and was still immersed in his rah-rah speech.
“The mid-term exams are almost upon us! Dear students, are you excited? This is not only an exam, but the season of harvest for your fruits of victory. Get out of bed… get out! Students who want high grades!”
Xie Yu endured it for a while before he finally couldn’t endure any more. He stuck his hand out from beneath the blankets, groping upwards, and retracted his hand again when he couldn’t find his earplugs.
The corridor began to fill with people.
Amidst the commotion, many people called out, “Zhao-ge.” He Zhao made a round of greetings, then walked to the door opposite his and knocked. “Old Xie, are you up?”
Xie Yu tossed his alarm clock in response, which crashed into the door, bounced back, and rolled around on the floor twice.
He Zhao: “……”
Someone was watching from the sidelines. This scene repeated itself every day and, even more strangely, He Zhao wasn’t angry. He squatted by the door in a good temper, waiting for the lord inside to get out of bed and open the door for him. One guy couldn’t help going up and asking, “Zhao-ge, this… is Xie Yu of the West Building this bad-tempered every day?”
“Yeah,” He Zhao smiled. “Cute, right?”
Before the guy left he wondered if he had heard wrong. Zhao-ge said ‘scary,’ right? Or did he just not understand the word cute?
After another two minutes or so, Xie Yu got up and opened the door for He Zhao.
He Zhao hadn’t slept all night. After Xie Yu had gone back last night, he had deleted his ‘Aaaaaaa’ mood message. But after deleting it he wasn’t sure what to replace with it, so he typed another string of ‘Aaaaaaaaaa’ and hit send.
Then he had lain wide awake until two or three a.m.
All he could think was: Xie Yu was his now. His little friend.
The moment He Zhao went through the door, he fell onto the bed. Xie Yu leaned against the door and watched, unsure what was wrong with him. He had his own bed, so why didn’t he sleep in it. Did he have to come over and take Xie Yu’s instead? “Didn’t sleep last night?”
“Slept at three a.m.,” He Zhao said, eyes half open. “Are you going back to sleep?”
Xie Yu said, “You took the bed. How can I sleep?”
“Boyfriend.” He Zhao scooched inwards to make space. “Come on.”
Xie Yu bent to pick up the alarm clock, then flung it at He Zhao again.
Over the intercom, Dean Jiang was still making his announcement. “Rising early is a very good habit. For example, I wake up at 5:30 a.m. to breathe the fresh morning air. It’s during this time you will understand just how wonderful life is.”
Xie Yu had hesitated before opening the door. He had just confirmed this relationship and had not yet had time to let it sink in. In this brand-new relationship, this person, this idiot—from today onwards, he wasn’t just anyone else.
Something had changed, but, at the same time, it seemed that nothing had.
He wasn’t sure how other people dated. Zhou Dalei’s ‘this is an example of what not to do’ relationship didn’t count.
He had imagined that he might not be too comfortable, or that it might be strange or awkward. But when He Zhao had appeared he had stopped thinking.
He Zhao, who was the sort to be late every day for 10,000 years, was actually on time.
First period today was literature. Tang Sen praised and encouraged He Zhao to work hard and keep doing well, then lectured Wan Da. “What happened? How come you’re late today?”
Wan Da had drunk too much yesterday, and his head was still hurting when he woke up in the morning. He really couldn’t get out of bed this morning, but he’d never admit that he was hungover for fear his parents might be called in. So he frantically recalled how He Zhao bullshitted every time he was late, and was finally able to come up with something. “It’s like this, teach. This morning, Shen Jie from Class 8 had his illness flare up again.”
He Zhao: “……”
Xie Yu: “……”
Everyone who was at the birthday party yesterday and was in the know: “……”
And Shen Jie of class 8, who wasn’t even here: “……”
“His, that, something-itis.” Wan Da had forgotten what malady it even was; the name was so damn long no one could remember it. He got halfway and then got stuck. “That gastro…”
He Zhao piped up from the back, “Chronic non-atrophic gastritis.”
Wan Da kept nodding. “Yes, yes, yes. That.”
Tang Sen had a lot of faith in his students and Wan Da was usually a fairly good student. He had no track record of being late, and Shen Jie… his illness had indeed flared up several times. So Tang Sen said, “Well done. If you see classmates who need help, you should help if you can. But come to think of it, that student from Class 8 really needs to take better care of himself. How did he land in the doctor’s office twice in three days…”
Wan Da was breaking out in a cold sweat, and sat down, shell-shocked.
Liu Cunhao and the others buried their faces in their elbows and howled silently with laughter.
The class dismissal bell rang. When Old Tang had gone, they burst out laughing, getting progressively louder. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, Shen Jie of Class 8! Impressive, Wan Da. You’re very impressive.”
Liu Cunhao rubbed away his tears of laughter. “What were you thinking?”
Wan Da said, “I was thinking of Zhao-ge. I wanted to do as he did.”
He Zhao couldn’t hold back his laughter either. “You can’t goddamn copy it exactly. If you’re so good you could say you helped an old granny cross the road. Thankfully Old Tang is silly. If it were Mad Dog, your dad might be on the way here to beat you.”
Wan Da scratched his head. “So scary? Surely it’s fine.”
“Good, my ass,” Xie Yu said. “Shen Jie is already on the way here to beat you.”
Wan Da: “……”
Liu Cunhao and the others howled with laughter again.
“Right, do you know what you and gym rep were like after you got drunk?” Xu Qingqing smiled as she remembered. “This was the first time I saw anybody get drunk. It was really something.”
When Wan Da woke up this morning, he didn’t remember anything that had happened the day prior. He had asked his suitemates, but they had only shaken their heads. Of course, he didn’t know that when he wasn’t fully conscious his former prediction that Class 3 would ‘take care of He Zhao and Xie Yu on their own’ had come true.² “What was I like? I was all right, surely.”
Xie Yu didn’t want to say anything.
He Zhao didn’t want to go into too much detail, either, and said, “You’re too confident.”
Between classes, Shen Jie really did come over. He stood at the window and yelled, “Wan Da, good for you! Do you know that I just met your teacher on the way back from the bathroom? He asked me to take care of my health? I even thought I contracted a terminal disease without even knowing it.”
When Shen Jie was done yelling, he glanced in his Zhao-ge’s direction out of habit. He found that his Zhao-ge and the emotionless killer had put their heads together, talking about something. It was a casual and ordinary scene, but he felt something wasn’t right.
He kept staring and discovered what wasn’t quite right… where were his Zhao-ge’s hands wandering?!
As part of Chaleuria’s Lunar New year batch release, we’ve published next week’s chapters early, plus some bonus chapters (including the confession!! I’m so glad we got to that.)
Fake Slackers will break for a week, and resume updating on the 4th of February. Thank you for reading, and happy Lunar New Year!
 This phrase describes high school relationships, and carries a connotation of the relationship being an ‘early’ one since both parties are adolescents.
 Refers to the end of chapter 19.