First Published on Chaleuria
065.1 – Z Y
They had picked a quiet spot not far from the rest area.
Old Tang and Mad Dog wheeled their bicycles by. They had ridden once around the lake and were tired, and towels hung around their necks as if bike riding was strenuous exercise.
Old Tang stood by the road and watched them for a while, smiling. “Have you all eaten yet?”
All of Class 3 sat up straight and replied in unison, “We have, we have.”
Old Tang was about to continue but Mad Dog dragged him away. “That’s enough. Don’t think that just because they’re smiling… these brats can’t wait for us to get lost.”
Xie Yu was naturally lucky and had done well over the last few rounds with ease. Not only did he not receive a single punishment, he had even drawn the king card twice.
Xu Qingqing recalled that round of Dou Dizhu before evening self-study with Xie Yu and her fear of being soundly beaten. It was fine that he was lucky at Dou Dizhu, but how did he do so well even with card games?!
This really was a terrible gaming experience!
The round ended. Xu Qingqing put the cards back and they started to draw again.
Xie Yu picked one at random and flipped it over to reveal another king.
Xu Qingqing: “……”
Up till now Xie Yu had found nothing to be very exciting about this game. He held the card between two fingers, still sitting on the ground. “That’s all? This is boring.”
Xu Qingqing said, “You’re not human.”
Wan Da shook his head and said gravely, “Yu-ge, we’re not like you.”
Luo Wenqiang had been targeted by Xie Yu twice in a row. The dare punishments in the Hard Mode edition were really twisted: he had nearly given his first kiss to Liu Cunhao, and was now terrified. He turned and shouted, “Zhao-ge, control your deskmate!”
He Zhao, sitting beside Xie Yu, was amused. He smiled and said, “Control what? I can’t control him.”
The voices of the people won out in the end and took away a certain star player’s game privileges. Xie Yu was made to back out of the game.
Xu Qingqing took back the king Xie Yu had just drawn. Xie Yu blinked, unsure whether to smile. “How can you do that?”
Liu Cunhao returned his card to Xu Qingqing and got ready to redraw. “Sorry, Yu-ge. You’re too strong. Life is unfair.”
He Zhao patted his little friend’s head, then couldn’t keep himself from tousling his hair. He consoled, “They’re not worthy of playing with someone as skilled as my deskmate.”
“What’s this about ‘them?’” The others didn’t like the way this sounded. “Zhao-ge, have a heart. At least count yourself among us, can you?”
He Zhao said, “I’m not the same. I’m a strong player, too.”
Xie Yu had no opinion on being made to back out of the game. It was no fun, anyway. He moved backwards a little, sitting behind He Zhao, and glanced down at his phone. If he leaned forward several more centimeters he would touch He Zhao’s back.
He Zhao was worried Xie Yu would get bored and took several snacks from his bag. “Food?”
Xie Yu glanced at the several small packets of walnuts by his hand. “……”
Although Xie Yu wasn’t sure why He Zhao would have brought walnuts on a class trip, he thought, Better you eat them yourself.
In reality, He Zhao was not as skilled a player as he made himself out to be. The only reason he hadn’t been picked yet was that the king cards had all been in Xie Yu’s hand.
Each time Xie Yu picked a card, while the others were not looking, he would reach over and He Zhao would write a number on his hand. Knowing what number He Zhao was, Xie Yu would never pick him.
The gentle brush of his fingers over Xie Yu’s palm was a little ticklish, as if he was flirting.
At first He Zhao had just written numbers, but two rounds later he started writing words.
He wrote the same thing down several times before Xie Yu asked, “…What is this?”
He Zhao whispered, “Feel it with your heart”
Other people would write one stroke at a time, but this idiot wrote the whole word down at once. Feel it, my ass.
Xie Yu really couldn’t feel anything. “Sorry, we assassins don’t have hearts.”
“Three words.” He Zhao decided to play coy, but a few minutes later he couldn’t keep himself from saying, “I like you.”
Now that his high-level boyfriend was no longer in the game, He Zhao’s good luck had run out.
Those who mess around in the streets must eventually pay the piper, and maybe He Zhao had to pay his boyfriend’s share back, as well, because he got hit twice in a row. “……”
Xu Qingqing had drawn the king card for the first time and was euphoric. She asked haughtily, “Which of you is number two?”
He Zhao tossed his ‘2’ card out.
The crowd exploded.
“Aren’t you a strong player, Zhao-ge?”
“Heaven has mercy on no one!”
“Qing-ge, don’t let him off! Give him a hard time!”
“Truth.” Facing the crazed crowd, He Zhao made his intentions clear.
Xu Qingqing wasn’t sure what to ask, either. In order not to sow discord and let everyone remain friends in the future, she picked a truth punishment card. As luck would have it, the question was quite tame. “How far have you gone with your girl/boyfriend?”
Xie Yu, the boyfriend: “……”
Shen Jie had bought some takeout at the rest area and phoned his Zhao-ge as he ate, wanting to ask him where he was, but the call didn’t go through. Shen Jie turned off his phone, got up, threw away the takeout box, then walked around looking for a place to smoke.
Not long after leaving the rest stop, he heard people yelling. “Ooh—”
In a very strange tone of voice, too.
Shen Jie faintly heard the voice of Class 3’s class rep. His grip tightened around his pack of cigarettes as he walked over. It really was Class 3.
“What are you doing?” Shen Jie squeezed through a gap in the shrubs. “I heard you from way over there… Zhao-ge, I called you but you didn’t pick up.”
Shen Jie dropped by Class 3 all the time, and Class 3’s students often used him as an excuse for being late, saying he got sick again. He was more or less one of them.
Wan Da made a space for him. “Sit down. We’re playing cards.”
Xu Qingqing urged, “Zhao-ge, can you answer the question?”
Amidst the crowd’s murmuring, He Zhao scratched his head and said, “How far, huh… everything that needs to be done has been done.”
Xie Yu pinched him hard at the waist.
His answer was very vague and left a lot to the imagination, and the crowd got more and more restless.
Xie Yu let go and asked, “What do you mean by ‘everything that needs to be done has been done?’”
He Zhao calmly leaned backwards. “What did you want me to say? That we’re at the point where they’re in bed, crying ‘gege?’”
Although no one had known that He Zhao had a partner, given his looks, it wasn’t unexpected. His partner might even be someone from a different school.
Luo Wenqiang didn’t let up. “He’s dodging the question, Qing-ge! Does that count as breaking the rules? What exactly did you do?”
Shen Jie, sitting and listening, had gotten the gist of the question, but the answer didn’t seem quite right.
When Xu Qingqing started distributing the cards again, Shen Jie finally had an epiphany. Then he thought in shock, Since when did Zhao-ge have a partner?
He Zhao was sitting opposite him and there were many people around, so he couldn’t ask directly.
Shen Jie tapped furiously away at his phone.
Zhao-ge, you escaped the single life?
When did you get a partner?
Fuck, who is it?
Are we still bros?
He Zhao didn’t even look at his phone. After answering the punishment question, he saw that Xie Yu had not yet touched the walnuts, so he opened a packet and handed it over.
Xie Yu’s feelings on receiving the walnuts were very complicated.
The unlucky victim of the next round was He Zhao again.
The question this time around was rather ordinary, the kind of truth question no one found fun.
“What is your greatest regret?”
Everyone’s excitement dropped when the card was pulled out. The answer was probably something inconsequential. What could they have be to regret?
Xie Yu waited for He Zhao to come up with an absurd story but He Zhao said nothing.
Class 3 had picked a spot close to the lake. When the wind blew, it skimmed the surface of the water, bringing a chill with it.
He Zhao looked down, his eyelashes casting shadows over his face. Who knew what he was thinking. After a while, he looked up and said, “In third year of junior high, because of me, a friend of mine…”
He abruptly cut himself off.
He Zhao found that he still hadn’t overcome this obstacle.
The moment it was brought up he felt so stifled he nearly panicked.
He couldn’t go on.
Everyone else glanced around, unsure what had just happened.
Xie Yu suddenly remembered He Zhao sitting in the stairwell and smoking in the middle of the night.
He Zhao, who caught him when he jumped off the wall and called him a cripple.
Liu Cunhao noticed that He Zhao had answered this question rather reluctantly and waved a hand dismissively. “This is a boring question. Next, next, next.”
The others didn’t mind, either. They put the cards back and began to draw again.
Amidst the excitement and subsequent conversation, the question was forgotten.
He Zhao pulled out his phone to check the time, then saw that Shen Jie had called him a few times. A dozen missed calls, and six or seven texts.
He gave them a cursory glance and was about to reply when something collided with his back.
Xie Yu was still looking down at his own phone, but he had leaned forward slightly and his forehead rested against He Zhao’s back.
Xie Yu moved his fingers, tapping on the screen.
The next moment, He Zhao heard his phone vibrate.
[Little friend]: ?
Xie Yu waited for a while but He Zhao did not reply. He lifted his hand again and lightly touched He Zhao’s back.
After several rounds of cards, it was about time for the class to regroup. Xu Qingqing put the cards away and Liu Cunhao reminded everyone, “Do you remember where we’re meeting? It’s almost time. Don’t be late.”
There was half an hour left. They couldn’t do anything in that time except walk around.
There were just a few small stores around left to visit.
Xu Qingqing was collecting the cards. Xie Yu had just handed them over when He Zhao caught hold of his other wrist, then pulled him to one side, away from the chaos.
“What’s gotten into you?”
“Can I hug you?” He Zhao said. “Just for a while.”
Shen Jie passed the cards back, then looked around for He Zhao but found his spot empty. He froze for a while, then glanced at his phone. On it was He Zhao’s message, short and succinct: Let me introduce you: this is Xie Yu, my boyfriend.
After the cards were collected, the group wondered aloud again where they should go.
Luo Wenqiang suggested, “Let’s buy some local souvenirs?”
Liu Cunhao said, “C City is forty minutes away. What local things? What does C City have that we don’t?”
After discussing it, they decided to go to the souvenir store after all. It would be a waste not to buy anything after coming all this way, after all. They were about to leave when someone noticed the headcount wasn’t right. “Leader, let’s go—wait, where’s our group leader?”
“Yu-ge isn’t here, either?”
Note: This chapter (65) is twice normal length, so it will be posted in two parts.