First Published on Chaleuria
062 – Dealing with you.
One of them pushed the cart and the other tossed things into it. Xie Yu thought this feeling was rather serendipitous. From time to time He Zhao asked whether he would eat this, whether he wanted that, and for no reason at all Xie Yu thought of the words ‘daily life.’
They were still wearing Erzhong uniforms so they had to be discreet when holding hands and could only do so when no one was around.
“Will you eat this?” He Zhao was standing close and from afar they just looked like two boys talking. “New flavor. Wanna try it?”
Xie Yu glanced at the packaging: green pepper flavor. “If you want to die, I won’t stop you.”
“It should be fine.” He Zhao liked to buy food he had never eaten before. There was a novelty to it, even if it was the sort of food no one would touch were he to serve it. “I bought the mustard flavor last time. It was all right. But when Shen Jie took the rest and ate it he nearly threw up.”
Snacks could not make a meal, so they picked only a few. The surroundings grew noisy and Xie Yu tried to let go of He Zhao’s hand, but even after pulling for a while He Zhao still did not let go.
“People are around.”
“Where? There’s no one around.”
He Zhao was very adamant, but the moment the words left his mouth someone tugged at his pants leg. He glanced down: a little girl had come out of nowhere. Her hair was tied into two braids and she was about four or five years old. She said meekly, “Gege.”
He Zhao: “……”
Where had she come from? And so silently.
“Gege, I want that one.”
The girl’s plump fingers pointed to a shelf, her words slightly mispronounced. “Strawberry flavor.”
Xie Yu followed with his eyes: it was a bag of popsicles, a cartoon figure printed on the packaging. The shelf was high and this little bean wouldn’t be able to reach it even if she jumped.
“Get it for her, gege.” Xie Yu took two steps forward and said, “Strawberry flavor.”
The strawberry flavored ones were right inside. He Zhao pushed the other bags to the side for the time being, holding them in place with one hand for fear they would fall. Xie Yu calling him ‘gege’ made him almost drop them.
Xie Yu’s voice was cool and his words were usually sharp, so when he was gentle it was especially inviting.
The little girl was still staring at the popsicles, the want almost flowing out of her eyes. He Zhao pulled the bag out, put the others back, then said to Xie Yu, “Just you wait.”
The bag of popsicles wasn’t big but the little girl still needed both hands to hold it. She said, “Thank you, gege.”
After He Zhao had gotten her the popsicles, he squatted and started talking to her. “You’re alone? Children shouldn’t run about.”
“Mom is over there.” The little girl pointed to a woman weighing some sweets, who had long hair and seemed gentle. After pointing, the little girl called out to her mother, then waved to them. “…Bye, gege.”
He Zhao patted her head, then fumbled in his pockets for a while, pulled out a sweet, and gave it to her. He smiled and said, “Bye.”
It was a very ordinary scene but Xie Yu thought that a boy like this—audacious and daring—was so warm when he folded up all his edges and was gentle, it made Xie Yu’s mind go blank.
By the time the little girl left, they were nearly done shopping. They just had to go over to the drinks section to get some water, and that would do for their trip supplies.
The shopping mall was small, just two floors, and not very crowded. They had easily walked around more than half of it.
“What did you call me just now?” He Zhao pressed close to Xie Yu’s ear and asked.
Xie Yu pushed the cart and leaned to one side. “You’re settling the score with me?”
Before He Zhao could reply, Xu Qingqing and the others walked up to them, their carts nearly colliding. “Are you done shopping?”
Wan Da’s cart was full of snacks. He had gotten four bags of chips alone. Xu Qingqing, on the other hand, had gotten many sweet things and many kinds of desserts.
Xie Yu said, “No.”
He Zhao added, “Still need two bottles of water.”
Wan Da looked down at his own cart, then said, “I need drinks, too. All right, let’s go together.”
The drinks section consisted of two full shelves. Wan Da pushed his cart, looking around, and couldn’t decide between Coke and Sprite.
He Zhao put back a bottle of fruit juice, still unwilling to give up on their previous conversation topic. “Just now, you…”
Wan Da had decided. He took a bottle of Coke, then walked towards them, whistling.
Xie Yu didn’t give He Zhao the chance to continue, either, and teased him instead. He pointed to a bottle of water on He Zhao’s right and said into his ear, “Gege, I want that one.”
He Zhao couldn’t get angry at all and could only internally scream, Kill me.
Although it was really damn satisfying to hear such a thing, they were in public and he had to restrain all notions that might have popped into his head. His little friend was playing with fire, and seemed to be having quite a good time of it.
He Zhao grabbed a bottle of mineral water, glanced at the expiry date, then handed it over. “I’ll deal with you when we get back.”
Xie Yu took the water, and felt that he had been childish, too. He leaned against the shelves and smiled.
“Qing-ge went to get tabletop games.” Wan Da had not paid any attention to their conversation. He tossed another bottle of soda into his cart, then turned and asked, “She should be up ahead. Shall we go see?”
“Up ahead where?”
“Entertainment section?” Wan Da stood on his tiptoes and looked around. He saw a figure wearing an Erzhong uniform, a familiar and powerful silhouette. “I see her!”
When Xie Yu and the others went over, Xu Qingqing was torn between two editions of an adventure game. “Looking at the summary, one is a normal edition and one is a hard mode edition. You came at the right time. Which should I get?”
He Zhao looked at them both for a while, could not decide, and said, “Get them both?”
Xie Yu didn’t even glance at them. “Don’t get either.”
Xu Qingqing said, “…Are you two serious?”
Wan Da said to let fate decide and asked Xu Qingqing to close her eyes and pick right or left.
“This one!” Wan Da handed over the hard mode edition. “Heaven decided! No more hesitation! Qing-ge, this one!”
Xie Yu glanced at the shelves and saw a set of cards with ‘Horror Game’ written on it. He was intrigued and was about to pick it up when He Zhao caught onto his hand. Then, while Wan Da and Qing-ge were otherwise occupied, Xie Yu witnessed He Zhao push ‘Horror Game’ to the very back of the shelf until it could no longer be seen. “……”
The way he acted, he was probably terrified that Wan Da would see and demand another lively game of Pen Spirit.
Xie Yu was amused. “How timid can you get?”
He Zhao said, “This has nothing to do with timidity. Put an end to superstition, right? That starts with me.”
It had been a quick trip. When they arrived back at school, hands laden with bags, evening self-study had just begun. Old Tang, seeing that these were special circumstances and they lived in the dorms anyway, gave them some extra time to put their things down in the dorms before coming back to class.
Xie Yu put down his things and washed his hands. Before he could dry them, he saw He Zhao standing in the doorway of his room, waiting for him. “Is something the matter?”
“Yes.” When Xie Yu walked back into his room, He Zhao shut the door and said, “Dealing with you.”
Xie Yu didn’t like people to get too close to him. When Madam Gu mentioned his childhood, she often said both proudly and worriedly, “Other kids always reach out and ask for hugs, but you… aside from me and your dad, you didn’t let anyone touch you.”
He probably hadn’t understood very well how to interact with other people.
Only He Zhao—only this idiot—made him want to get closer, and then closer still.
When He Zhao bent down to kiss him, Xie Yu suddenly remembered that he had not thought about his future with this person.
Their meeting had been an inexplicable accident. He and He Zhao had crashed into each other, and the events that had followed were both torrid and beautiful… he was worried that this whole thing was only smoke and mirrors and would soon vanish. No one could tell what the future holds. Life was so long and no one could predict what is to come.
But a voice in his subconscious said, You have thought about it.
You want to keep being with this idiot.
He Zhao had said, ‘deal with you,’ but in reality he only kissed Xie Yu that much harder. He even held himself in check and didn’t use his teeth this time. “You gave me a hard time on purpose, hm?”
They were both competitive and neither gave in. Xie Yu’s legs hit the edge of his bed hard and he had already fallen onto his bed by the time he came back to his senses.
One of He Zhao’s hands lay next to his neck, separating them. As if He Zhao was worried about suffocating him, or being unable to control himself.
Xie Yu eyed him for a while, then voluntarily drew closer and pushed their lips together.
Xie Yu’s hand was still damp and left a cool sensation on He Zhao’s wrist.
He Zhao’s mind lost its last shred of rationality.
The dorm beds were not sturdy, and when Xie Yu turned over in the night the bed would creak. Besides, it was holding two people now. He Zhao reached beneath the hem of Xie Yu’s shirt, bit by bit, first squeezing the softness at his waist, then moving upward. Xie Yu’s skin was soft and he reacted immediately.
Xie Yu couldn’t take being touched like this, either. His instincts told him that playing around like this would cause an accident. “…Ge.”
He Zhao, hearing this, stopped. He paused for a while, pulling his hand away from that warmth and out from beneath his little friend’s shirt. Then he leaned down and bit gently on Xie Yu’s neck before stopping. “Fuck, I’m hard again.”
“You don’t need to specially mention it.” Xie Yu sat up, resting his back against a pillow, looking at He Zhao as he said, “It’s been poking me this whole time.”
He Zhao said hoarsely, “You’re not much better. Shall I take care of it for you?”
As He Zhao spoke, he really reached out to touch it, finding Xie Yu’s hip through the material of their school trousers. His fingers were about to reach upwards when Xie Yu kicked him. “Get lost.”
The scuffle just now had been intense and He Zhao had no idea when he had shed his jacket. He got up, bent down, picked up the item of clothing from the floor, then asked from Xie Yu’s doorway, “Really don’t need me to?”
He received, in reply, a pillow Xie Yu had thrown.
Xie Yu took a cold shower and it was nearly half an hour before it subsided. He turned off the shower and the chill had passed but he still felt warm.
Wan Da put his things down, then dawdled about his dorm room for a while. He played two rounds of a video game, and when he was ready to go back to class, he went upstairs to get the two Big Bros to go with him.
When Wan Da went over and knocked on the door, he found that both of them had changed their clothes, hair still dripping water. Wan Da swallowed back all the words he was about to say. “You’re taking a shower at this time of night?”
He really could not answer. He Zhao was rendered speechless, a rare occurrence. He stood in the doorway and glanced at Xie Yu in the opposite doorway, indicating for him to say something.
So Xie Yu hesitated a while, then replied, “None of your business?”
He Zhao: “……”
Wan Da: “……”
Fiercely anticipated by everyone in second year, the day of the fall class trip finally arrived.
The itinerary was the same as always, like a School Fall Class Trip Classic Set Meal. The venue was a public park near a theme park, with a good view. They could take pictures and relax, and there was also an archery range and a mini-theater nearby.
In the morning, the whole school building was in an uproar. Dean Jiang came over to give a speech, which brought about a temporary quiet, but when Dean Jiang left they continued making a scene.
Liu Cunhao opened his bag in front of everyone, showing off what he had brought. “See all of this? A bag of Lay’s potato chips, some bread, some chewing gum… I’ll share with everyone later.”
He Zhao didn’t want to lose out. “Look at mine and Old Xie’s. See this? Green pepper flavor. I bet you’ve never eaten this in your life.”
Xie Yu pressed a hand to his forehead and reminded him, “That’s yours. Don’t drag me into it.”
“What’s mine is yours.”
“…Just forget it.”
Old Tang wore blue exercise wear, probably wanting to project an image of youthful vigor. But on his slightly pudgy frame it made people think it would be better to give him a rocking chair and let him slowly rock in it.
“Several important things first.” Old Tang pulled out an itinerary, then a piece of chalk. “Everyone split into groups and pick a group leader. You all know my phone number, right? If you don’t, here it is again… if anything happens, just call me, or look for the tour guide.”
There were about thirty people in the class and they were freely allowed to form groups.
There was only one objective in going out: to have a good time. Liu Cunhao had had enough of managing the class as class rep, so this time he didn’t want to be the group leader. He passed the position to He Zhao. “Zhao-ge, actually, since the first day of school I’ve thought you were an impressive person. Your radiance, your leadership qualities—you’re a dragon among people, and undefeatable—”
At this, Xie Yu let out a laugh.
He Zhao waved a hand dismissively, indicating for him to stop. “All right, all right, I get what you mean.”
While He Zhao was rounding everyone up, Luo Wenqiang wanted to join their group but He Zhao said, “You can’t. You eat too much.”
Liu Cunhao followed up, “I think you can’t, too.”
Luo Wenqiang was stunned. “Are you really going to be like that? What about love for your classmates?”
Xie Yu was watching the excitement unfold. Luo Wenqiang had no recourse and Xie Yu got to watch the beefcake say to him in despair, “Yu-ge, tell them!”
He Zhao said, “Don’t call Yu-ge. No use calling Yu-ge. Your Yu-ge is… my friend.”
Thankfully he reacted fast or he might have said “mine.”
Xie Yu heard him and, after thinking about it, decided to take his boyfriend’s side. “Mm. No use calling me.”
Luo Wenqiang: “……”
Old Tang was still explaining guidelines. “When you go out, be careful to keep the place clean. Don’t litter at the venue. Embody the spirit and good upbringing of our youth…”
Everyone nodded, hoping to get it over with. “All right, got it.”
Luo Wenqiang wasn’t ready to give up. He wagged a finger in the air. “All right, I finally see your true colors. All this talk about friendship is just hot air.”
He Zhao added Luo Wenqiang’s name to his paper, then motioned for him to scram. “Enough. If you keep talking, we won’t take you.”
The bus quieted when the tour guide entered.
The tour guide was a man wearing a red cap and with a megaphone in hand, and he waved as he entered. “Hello, students. How are you doing?”
The groups handed their name lists to the tour guide. When he took He Zhao’s group’s list, Xie Yu saw the confusion in the tour guide’s eyes, as if asking, What is this? Who are these people?
Xie Yu tore a page from his exercise book and wrote down the six names again.