First Published on Chaleuria
061 – It’s not boring if you’re around.
Neither of them knew who moved closer to the other first. When they came back to their senses, one of He Zhao’s hands was resting on Xie Yu’s waist and he couldn’t help pulling him closer.
His masculine frame was solid and his temper was harsh, but other places were unbelievably soft.
Xie Yu was kissed so much he couldn’t speak and could only push at He Zhao weakly. He cursed, his words hoarse and his tone dropping at the end: not forceful at all. “He Zhao, were you born in the year of the dog?”
The space behind the door was not large enough for two people, and certainly not two tall boys.
He Zhao drew closer and closer, closing the distance between them by half. Xie Yu almost couldn’t breathe, his back hurting where it pressed up against the wall.
A kiss, so be it—but he liked biting, too.
Xie Yu felt a faint pain at the corner of his mouth—He Zhao had probably broken skin.
This sort of thing, hiding from everyone to kiss in an empty classroom, felt quite taboo and very audacious.
After making out for a while Xie Yu wanted to let go, but when their gazes met, they both saw the other trying very hard to regain a hold of the emotions they had long lost control of and couldn’t suppress any more.
“Just a while longer.” He Zhao pulled Xie Yu back again, leaned down, and touched Xie Yu’s nose with his lips. “I haven’t kissed you enough.”
How could he possibly have gotten enough? When he saw how his little friend’s eyes clouded over at his kisses, he didn’t want to let go.
“You call that kissing?”
“My skills could be improved.” He Zhao’s lips moved several centimeters lower, landing on the corner of Xie Yu’s mouth. “…Need to practice.”
He Zhao’s voice dropped and his breath fell onto Xie Yu’s ears very invitingly as he coaxed his little friend. They were dangerously close and Xie Yu nearly lost control.
Just then, footsteps came from the far end of the corridor, followed by a voice that seemed to be drawing closer. “Why isn’t this classroom door shut?”
The student council was spot-checking classrooms for cleanliness.
Aside from classes, Erzhong also held many other activities. To enrich students’ extracurricular lives, the student council not only had to regularly check that the classrooms were clean, they also had to organize poetry reading contests, debate competitions, and so on and so forth… wherever they were needed, they would go.
Xie Yu stared at He Zhao’s face inches from his own and thought they had landed themselves in a thorny situation.
“Shall we just run out?”
“Jump out the window.” He Zhao had no confidence, either, even though he had done much more ridiculous things before. “It’s cooler?”
The student council members dawdled by the door with their checklists for a long time but didn’t enter. “It looks clean enough. Maybe the student on duty hasn’t left yet… let’s continue on for now and see.”
A terrifying situation but there was no real danger.
Wan Da was in the classroom, doing homework as he waited for He Zhao to bring him his milk tea. He had already finished his homework for one subject but his milk tea still had not arrived. “What’s taking so long? If I went out and bought some I’d have come back twice over already.”
“You mean Zhao-ge? Surely not.” Xu Qingqing walked in holding a cup of tea. “I saw them when I went out just now. They should’ve been back long ago.”
Wan Da was worried. Waiting for this cup of milk tea was just as anxiety-inducing as waiting for someone who would never arrive.
By the time He Zhao appeared in the classroom doorway, Wan Da nearly flung away his pen and jumped him. “—I’ve waited so long even flowers would have wilted, big bros. I nearly thought you weren’t coming back for evening self-study.”
“We… had an accident.” He Zhao put the milk tea on Wan Da’s desk and asked, “Did Hao-zi leave?”
The milk tea was still warm. Wan Da inserted the straw and drank two mouthfuls, satisfied. “He left. Old Tang came over to talk to him and covered everything from a student’s exam attitude to how to calmly face failure. He talked for over half an hour and still wasn’t done, so Hao-zi packed up his things and left through the back door.”
It was very much their homeroom teacher’s style of doing things. He Zhao said, “Old Tang’s the most impressive after all.”
Wan Da finished, then noticed Xie Yu walking in through the rear door and stopped mid-drink. “You… fought?”
He Zhao was about to ask, ‘What fight?’ Why would he bring up fighting, out of nowhere?
Wan Da continued, “Why is Yu-ge’s mouth injured?”
Xie Yu had just arrived in the doorway and Wan Da’s eyes were sharp. Although he faintly felt that the wound wasn’t quite right, his thoughts stuck fast on ‘fight.’ “Who was it? Who dares to provoke Erzhong’s Big Bro of the West?”
He Zhao coughed.
Wan Da could not miss out on this thrilling and exciting gossip. He went on for a while, hoping one of them would join in and back up his story, but no one bothered with him.
Xie Yu touched the corner of his mouth with a finger, passed Wan Da by, and walked to his seat.
“Drink your milk tea.” He Zhao kicked Wan Da’s desk leg and said meaningfully, “Kids shouldn’t poke their nose into grownups’ affairs.”
Wan Da thought, What was that? About kids and grownups?
He bit on his straw, planning to do his chemistry homework next. Then he couldn’t find his textbook among the study materials on his desk, so he turned around, still holding his milk tea, to look in his bag. The moment he turned around he saw the two big bros in the last row doing things as if no one was watching.
Xie Yu had been looking down at his phone at a holiday greeting from Aunt Mei’s but he had only read half her text when He Zhao forcefully caught hold of his chin and lifted it.
He Zhao moved closer and said, “Don’t move. Let me look.”
The wound on Xie Yu’s mouth stood out against his pale skin.
Aside from worrying someone would figure out how he got injured, Xie Yu wasn’t concerned about it. He just wanted to reply to the text, so he retorted without even thinking about it. “Not a problem. I can take it.”
During evening self-study, Old Tang brought a book with him to read as he observed class.
Near dismissal time, Xu Qingqing and the others had finished their work and had nothing to do, so they started chatting with Old Tang. “Teach, I heard you used to teach at the Experimental High School?”
Old Tang stuck his bookmark into his book then looked up. “You’re done with homework?”
“Nearly.” Wan Da nudged his chair forward and himself with it, curious. “Mr. Tang, how did you come to Erzhong to teach?”
People had been curious about this ever since Tang Sen had accepted the job of being Class 3’s homeroom teacher. The Experimental High School was among A City’s premier schools and even several Erzhongs combined could not compare to it.
Xie Yu didn’t listen closely to what Old Tang said in reply, his classmates’ questions changed every three minutes, anyway. “Mr. Tang, when are we taking our fall class trip? Soon?”
There were only ten or so live-in students and Old Tang made them all sit close to the front, so Xie Yu and He Zhao both sat in the column closest to the window where they listened to the chat about the fall class trip.
“All of you only think about playing. Why aren’t you as attentive in class?” Old Tang started lecturing, but after his lecture was done he told them what they wanted to know anyway and said, “The fall class trip will probably be this week, tentatively Friday, but we’re not yet sure about the timing… don’t share this with the other classes. Dean Jiang didn’t want me to tell you early because we don’t want you to…”
Before he had even finished, the class was already in an uproar. “Class trip! Friday! Class trip!”
Old Tang: “……”
He Zhao, hearing this, grew excited, too. He closed out of his video game and asked, “Are you going on the class trip?”
Xie Yu always skipped school on class trip days. With a calm expression, without even a cough, he told the teacher he had a fever. The teachers had never quite said anything, either, as if a problem student like him not going would end up saving them some trouble.
Now that he thought about it, he hadn’t participated in any class trips or any other sort of outing since entering high school. “…Where do people usually go?”
He Zhao said, “It’s quite boring. Classic locations that never go out of style. A public park, a theme park, or a museum. It can’t be anything but these three locations. If the school plans well, we might get to go hiking on a mountain.”
Last year, for some inexplicable reason, the school had taken them to the park. The flowers had all already wilted, leaving only bare tree trunks and branches. They had walked all day and not seen anything, and in the cold wind they had felt only dreariness and desolation.
Xie Yu felt he had been very wise to take the day off. “It’s boring, but you’re still going?”
“It’s not boring if you’re around.” He Zhao slumped on the desk, looking at him, then asked again, “Are you going?”
Xu Qingqing and the others were already discussing what to bring. “Tomorrow after school I’ll go out and buy some snacks and some cards. Ah, does anyone want to play truth or dare?”
Wan Da raised both hands in the air. “Yes, yes, yes! I’ll vote for Hao-zi, too. We’ll both be there.”
The way they were acting, one might think the midterms had been last month. After a while, Xie Yu said, “I’ll think about it.”
His little friend was stubborn. ‘I’ll think about it’ meant yes.
The news of the class trip spread like wildfire in class the next morning. Even Liu Cunhao, who had taken a beating when he went home, now grew happy. “This Friday?!”
Wan Da high-fived him. “Surprised? Happy?!”
Yesterday, Liu Cunhao had still been hugging Wan Da and crying, and at lunchtime he had even said he was too sad about his bad grades to eat anything. He had been forcibly dragged to the cafeteria and had ended up gobbling down two bowls of rice after saying he couldn’t eat.
Seventeen was a very innocent age.
Xie Yu was planning to catch up on sleep, but even though it was so noisy he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t feel frustrated.
He listened quietly for a while, then opened his eyes and saw He Zhao with his left leg haphazardly propped up on his right kneecap as he mimicked Liu Cunhao’s death-throe groans from yesterday. “What shall I do? I don’t think I’ll live past today… no, I really can’t eat anything.”
Liu Cunhao pointed to He Zhao and said, “Zhao-ge, although I can’t beat you in a fight, it’s not right to mock people like that.”
The class grew rowdy again.
Xu Qingqing and the others had come to a decision. When the class dismissal bell rang, a group of four or five waved to them. “Zhao-ge, are you both coming? We’re taking the bus to the shopping center to get some snacks.”
Near the school there was only a small convenience store, and even if they weren’t picky, they wouldn’t be able to get spicy dry noodles for the class trip.
The closest supermarket was two stops away and, if they were quick, they would get back to school before evening self-study period began.
They got off the bus and everyone dispersed to get their own things.
Xie Yu leaned against the side of the shopping cart, watching He Zhao examine the best-by dates on the snacks, and thought for the first time that He Zhao actually seemed quite domestic at heart.