First Published on Chaleuria
075 – The type I like.
He Zhao had been staring down at the steps beneath him. His mind had been running wild, but when he heard this he glanced sharply up.
Xie Yu had not reacted strongly.
Before He Zhao could respond, Xie Yu forcibly shoved the sweet into his mouth.
He Zhao froze.
Then the fruity taste reached him.
It was sweet.
His little friend had licked it.
And his little friend had called him ‘ge.’
All other thoughts in He Zhao’s mind suddenly screeched to a stop and only one thing remained: …he’s playing dirty.
Xie Yu had never imagined that ‘Question King’ had nearly given up on himself for such a reason. Even after repeating a year, He Zhao hadn’t been able to put down his worries and had landed himself at a bottom-of-the-barrel high school and kept scoring last in the year at that.
A top student, who in the eyes of everyone had a bright and limitless future, had now fallen below the passing grade.
He had fallen very far.
Even though Xie Yu had known He Zhao for a long time, the only time he had really seen He Zhao get angry was during the incident with Xu Xia and Goody-two-shoes Yang.
“That’s why you beat people up in your first year, too?” Xie Yu leaned back on his hands and asked.
Xie Yu didn’t pay attention to gossip and had no idea who the Big Bro in the next building was. But He Zhao’s exploits had spread through the entire school and it was difficult to avoid it completely.
Xie Yu had become the Big Bro of the West Building due to ‘cheating on the high school exams’ on top of fighting.
He Zhao, on the other hand, hadn’t.
Unlike Xie Yu, when He Zhao entered high school, he had maintained a low profile for a while. He had attended class for two months without incident. Then, after the mid-term tests, an event had made his name spread like wildfire.
He hit a teacher.
Like Xie Yu, he had made his name by fighting, but what He Zhao had done was much more serious than Xie Yu knocking four people unconscious outside of school.
“Someone in our class had bought exam answers, and he thought I gave that person the idea.” He Zhao bit into the sweet. Unwilling to even mention the teacher’s name, he had said ‘he’ instead. Then He Zhao continued, “He seems to have thought highly of me. Buying answers, my ass… if I really had, would I really have scored ten points?”
Now that He Zhao thought about it, he had been too hot-tempered at that time. He could have just laughed it off. He hadn’t really needed to kick the table and then argue back. The argument had grown more and more heated until He Zhao couldn’t hold himself back any longer and threw a punch.
He had hit quite hard and nearly landed the teacher in the hospital.
That day, He Zhao didn’t leave school after class was dismissed. He sat in a bathroom stall and smoked half a pack of cigarettes. While the smell of smoke circulated around him, he kept asking himself, What the hell am I doing?
He Zhao now stopped. Noticing that the ‘second-to-last-in-the-year’ sitting next to him had not yet said a word, he changed the topic. “What about you?”
“I…” Xie Yu said calmly. “I’m too outstanding. I want to give other people a chance, too.”
“……” He Zhao choked. He lifted a hand and tousled Xie Yu’s hair. “Be more serious, will you?”
Xie Yu’s reasons… were domestic.
He Zhao already knew of Xie Yu’s ‘intellectually impaired’ older brother. He Zhao had also seen his little friend pace back and forth in the dormitory corridor, impressively cursing up a storm without repeating a single insult.
Xie Yu, seeing He Zhao about to say something, cut him off again. “It’s all right. I know what I’m going to do.”
Zhong Guofei had told Xie Yu that his son was competitive. Xie Yu had not taken it to heart and nearly told Zhong Guofei on the spot, It’s none of my damn business if your son’s competitive. Not like he’s my son.
But Xie Yu also had to worry about Madam Gu.
While Xie Yu was still unable to leave this home environment, he had to protect her as much as he could, by any means necessary.
Although He Zhao thought his little friend sounded cool with things, he was still a little worried. “So what are your plans? What university are you aiming for?”
Xie Yu replied, “Doesn’t have to be too great. Tsinghua or Peking U is fine.”
He Zhao was speechless.
Remembering the question he had posted on Baidu Knows, He Zhao now thought he had been completely absurd.
They sat in the stairwell a while longer. Xie Yu glanced at the time; it was nearly time for lunch. He stood up and kicked He Zhao’s leg, then walked up the stairs. “Are you hungry? Want to go for lunch?”
He Zhao crunched up the sweet in his mouth and looked at him. “It’s a date.”
Since confirming their relationship, they had both been in school most of the time and they were both occupied on weekends.
On the occasions they left school for fun, it was mostly for group activities and they couldn’t ignore an entire 30-odd group of third wheels. Aside from the time He Zhao had gone off to Black Water Street to find him, which could perhaps be considered a date if one really tried, they really hadn’t had much time together.
Xie Yu pulled open the heavy door of the emergency exit. Hearing the words ‘It’s a date,’ he paused.
They were on the seventh floor. If he had gone up two more flights, they would have reached the top floor.
They left the emergency stairwell. This floor of the shopping mall consisted of furniture stores. There weren’t many people this high up. So they looked for an elevator to go down again. He Zhao hung off Xie Yu’s shoulder as they walked and he asked, “What do couples do when they go on dates?”
“You don’t know?”
“This is my first relationship. I’m not used to things yet.”
“Ask Baidu, then. Don’t you like doing that?”
He Zhao fell silent. “…That’s enough. You’ll never let me forget it, will you?”
Having been mercilessly shot down by Xie Yu, He Zhao did pick up his phone and look on Baidu.
The previous elevator had just left and was still on the ground floor. They would have to wait a while longer before it arrived again.
Xie Yu held his mock paper in one hand. Bored of waiting, he leaned over to look at He Zhao’s phone screen, and saw a very embarrassing heading: Dating Walkthrough. How to firmly catch hold of his/her heart.
“Have a meal, watch a movie…” He Zhao read aloud as he scrolled. After reading a few lines, he stopped and said, “…About watching a movie, I’ll see anything with you as long as it’s not a horror film.”
Aside from these general tips, the site also had restaurant recommendations and tips for what to look out for while having a meal. Through the little details, embody the chivalry and romance of a gentleman, and entrance your partner with your presence.
Xie Yu glanced downward and caught sight of a subject title at the very end of the article, annotated in red text: Final Stage.
He Zhao finished reading the content, then kept scrolling downward. His finger stopped on the final paragraph and he also saw the text in red. He read the title aloud, then got stuck. “Get a…”
Get a room.
The lights on the elevator indicated it was about to reach their floor.
He Zhao swallowed and turned his phone off.
Xie Yu said nothing, but although he looked calm on the surface, He Zhao noticed that the tips of Xie Yu’s ears had gone red.
With a chime, the elevator doors opened.
Xie Yu felt that something was wrong with him, although he couldn’t pinpoint what.
Thoughts were rising in his mind, unstoppable despite his efforts.
He Zhao coughed and changed the subject. “Shall we go eat?”
While they were looking for a restaurant, they also carefully looked around for Xue Xisheng.
After lunch, they walked to the entertainment area and found it was so crowded that they’d get lost in the crowd if they let go of each other’s hands.
Fate really would be at work If they ran into Xue Xisheng again here.
“He’s probably attending the session on sharing your thoughts about studying.” Xie Yu recalled the timestamped agenda on the invitation. “He’s also doing a presentation on Happy Physics.”
“……” He Zhao hadn’t looked closely at the agenda before and was genuinely impressed. “Is he human?”
“I don’t know. We’re different.”
The entertainment area consisted of an arcade and a theater.
The theater was crowded and the line for tickets was long.
Xie Yu looked first for movies that were starting soon, then checked whether they were horror films. He ignored the others. Eventually, he picked a braincell-killing sci-fi film that started in ten minutes.
He Zhao had discovered the last time they had gone shopping that Xie Yu didn’t dither at all. If he saw something he wanted, he went for it. He was very focused on his objective. “That one?”
Xie Yu had no real preference for which film to see. “If you want to see another one, that’s fine too.”
“This one’s fine,” He Zhao said. “They’re all about the same.” And he probably wouldn’t be paying attention to the movie anyway.
They were buying tickets fairly late and most of the good seats were already gone, leaving only the last few rows free.
From the back of the theater, the audience seating was a sea of the backs of people’s heads.
Xie Yu sat down, then held out his hand to He Zhao, palm up. The red bracelet still hung on his wrist, eye-catching. “Hold my hand, ge?”
He Zhao noticed that when Xie Yu was in a good mood, he liked to give He Zhao a hard time.
The theater was very noisy.
Only when the lights dimmed in the theater and the movie started playing did everyone settle down.
The plot was familiar and cliche, the sort where the trailer was a hundred times more exciting than the actual movie. Only the acting of the two leads and the special effects carried the film. The movie-goers watched in silence for a while, but less than half an hour in, they all noticed that the movie was boring and started chatting.
The movie had very loud audio effects. The sound rose, then slowly faded.
The light from the screen illuminated the theater.
In this faint light, Xie Yu stared at He Zhao for a while. He moved his fingers, still intertwined with He Zhao’s, and called, “Zhao-ge.”
He Zhao turned to look at him.
Xie Yu was curled up in his seat. Dressed in all black, he blended in with his surroundings, but his eyes were still bright and fixed on He Zhao. “You asked me… what you were like.”
On the big screen, scene after scene went by.
He Zhao was distracted by the movie’s sound effects and had to think about it for a while before remembering what Xie Yu’s sudden mention of ‘last time’ referred to.
“Now that I’m not just anyone else to you.” Xie Yu finished, paused, then kept going. “I’ll answer that question again. I’ll say it once and if you don’t hear it, then forget about it.”
He Zhao stopped breathing.
Then he heard Xie Yu say, “You’re the type I like.”