First Published on Chaleuria
109 – Your futures contain endless possibilities.
“Qing-ge, give me another chance?”
Xu Qingqing pretended to be angry and slammed the pen gripped tightly in her hand onto the table. She got halfway through her act, then couldn’t help smiling. “Give you and your shill another chance?”
Liu Cunhao laughed until he plopped to the ground and pounded the floor with his fists.
He Zhao: “……”
Xie Yu found it embarrassing. He picked up He Zhao by the collar and dragged him straight back to the back row.
Although they had botched it, Xu Qingqing did seem to be in a better mood. When Xu Jing handed snacks over, she even ate a few bites. For a moment, Xie Yu even thought: Maybe it was real magic.
He influenced the atmosphere easily. Messy, noisy, with too much sound. Sometimes Xie Yu was so annoyed he wanted to kick him, but he also couldn’t help wanting to draw closer.
At this thought, Xie Yu turned and looked at him.
After returning to his seat, He Zhao had quieted down. He had unwrapped a lollipop and tossed it into his mouth. When he wasn’t talking, he subconsciously let out a serious air belying his age. Even though the act of holding a lollipop in his mouth was languid and a little rascally.
“What are you looking at?”
He Zhao saw that Xu Qingqing had regained her strength and was standing up to punch Liu Cunhao. Only then did he look away and discover that his little friend by his side had been staring at him for a long time.
He lifted a hand and took hold of the plastic stick, then said, “Do you want this? Call me ge and I’ll give it to you.”
Xie Yu didn’t want the sweet at all, but in that split second he seemed to have fallen under a spell and obediently called him ‘ge.’
Liu Cunhao had summoned his strength intending to bring forth all Xu Qingqing’s spiritedness, but he had overdone his provocation and nearly suffered a terrible backlash. He had provoked Xu Qingqing so much that she chased him out of the classroom and they had a stand-off in the corridor.
Xu Qingqing rolled up her sleeves. “Hao-zi, you get over here.”
Liu Cunhao said, “I won’t,” and ran toward the classroom’s rear door. His gaze swept over the last row and landed on the lollipop in his Yu-ge’s mouth.
He was preoccupied with dodging and his mind spun for a long time before it clicked.
…That lollipop was in Zhao-ge’s mouth just now though?
They called them supplementary lessons, but it was the same as if school had started again.
They didn’t cover the new Year 3 textbooks yet, and when they covered new content in class they also reviewed previous content. The classes moved at a quick pace and it was only when the last period had nearly ended that they could furtively relax.
Xue Yu was doing several new practice questions Old Wu had set for him. He got halfway, then discovered that his thought process wasn’t quite right. He was about to strike it through when the student in front of him reached back and tossed a note onto his desk without a word.
Xie Yu lifted his eyebrows and unfolded the note. The first line was eye-catching: Let’s discuss what to eat for dinner. Please vote. We’ll eat at whichever place has the most votes.
Below it was a list of shop names. Peking U, Gold List, Valedictorian House.
Someone full of inspiration had even written a campaign speech. The loyal Valedictorian House protector had written flowing praise about it. Their food is really good. When I can’t find a way forward, when my soul sinks into confusion, the Valedictorian House’s food will always wake me up…
Xie Yu said, “Are they sick?”
“They’re even campaigning?” He Zhao exclaimed as he looked at it. “They’re being too sincere. This friend has actually moved me.”
He Zhao ticked off his choice, then wadded up the paper again and tossed it at the next column of students.
Wu Zheng finished explaining a question and was about to assign homework for evening self-study. When he looked up, he saw the activity on the classroom floor. “What are you passing? Pass it over here for me to see.”
The student in the next column held on to the note and wouldn’t turn it in, but Wu Zheng stepped off the podium and started a 3-minute snatch-fight with him. After getting the note and seeing its contents, he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. “I say, all of you aren’t paying attention to class and coming up with—what is this—is the food at the Valedictorian House really so good?”
In the end, they really went to the Valedictorian House for a meal. They split into two tables and ordered several dishes.
The restaurant really gave many types of discounts for all kinds of wondrous reasons. When they settled the bill, the lady boss gave them a ‘20 percent vacation supplementary lesson special discount.’
The sky gradually grew dark.
The temperature plummeted and it was no longer as stuffy and hot as it had been during the daytime. He Zhao walked at the very end of the line. When he touched his little friend’s hand he felt that his little friend’s fingertips were a little cool.
Xie Yu froze for a moment. The noise by his ear continued; Luo Wenqiang and the others were still discussing the food from the Valedictorian House. In his palm, warmth passed from his boyfriend’s body to his.
He Zhao made a shushing gesture at him and said, “I’ll just hold your hand for a while.”
Xie Yu didn’t say anything. His fingers curved upwards and he grasped He Zhao’s hand back.
The street was very long. Liu Cunhao and the others walked in front. As Wan Da walked, he jumped up to pluck leaves from the tree. Suddenly, he said, “I want to go to Fudan!”
Someone laughed, “Did you get drunk just from eating rice?”
Jeering was jeering, but this lot had too much free time after the meal. He hooked an arm around Wan Da’s shoulders and said, “I recommend that you turn left. See that shop? There’s no Fudan here, but you can get a cup of Fudan milk tea.”
He Zhao’s hand tightened around his. “Have you thought about it? Where are you planning to go?”
Which school to go to.
Everybody was asking that question. That morning, Old Tang had pulled him over to hear his thoughts, too. After all, with his and He Zhao’s grades, as long as they wanted to get in, they could get in anywhere.
“I’m not worried about anything else. Just on the topic of what you want to study, you have to have some ideas.” Old Tang finished his lecture, then asked, “Is there a concentration you’re interested in?”
While preparing for the exams, everyone learned the same things. Just those few subjects. But university was different. There were all kinds of concentrations and Tang Sen hoped they would step out of the framework and think carefully about this issue.
What he was interested in.
Xie Yu thought for a long time and the scene that eventually surfaced in his mind was that of Madam Gu after she fainted. That day, he had been completely distraught and fumbled around not knowing what to do. His heart suddenly skipped a few beats.
Xie Yu recovered and said uncertainly, “Ah, I’m still considering it. What about you?”
The whole school was empty and leaves rustled in the wind.
“I want to be closer to you.”
He Zhao repeated, “As long as I’m close to you, that’ll do.”
In the end, the planned evening self-study session did not happen. Old Tang had heard from somewhere that Xu Qingqing had cried after class and wanted to counsel them to not be too anxious.
In the end, he just secretly gave them a vacation.
Xie Yu had just gotten a change of clothes and headed for the shower. After he took off his shirt, someone knocked on the bathroom door. “Old Tang messaged the group chat and said to go to the quad.”
Xie Yu’s hand still rested at his waist, poised to take off his pants. “The quad?”
“The thoughts of a middle-aged man… I don’t understand them.”
Not only He Zhao, the rest of Class 3 also didn’t quite understand it either.
[Liu Cunhao]: The quad?
[Wan Da]: Don’t tell me we’re going to run?
[Luo Wenqiang]: Ah! The quad! We’re going to run!
He Zhao paused. Hearing no running water from the doorway, he pulled open the door. “Are you showering or not…”
Xie Yu had just put his T-shirt back on.
Who knew how they would need to suffer on the quad. It would be too troublesome to come back and have to shower again.
The hem of his shirt caught just beneath his ribs. He reached out to pull on it but touched He Zhao’s hand instead.
This guy’s hand moved, as if accidentally, along the bare line of Xie Yu’s back.
Xie Yu was about to say, ‘Don’t goddamn let your hands wander,’ but the person behind him collected himself and helped him get his clothes in order, then lowered his head and kissed his neck. “Let’s go.”
He Zhao was about to let him off, but this time Xie Yu got ideas. He turned around and leaned against the side of the sink, watching him. “Kiss me?”
They were the last to arrive. By the time they got there Luo Wenqiang was already leading everyone else in warm-up exercises.
Class 3’s gym rep was very excited. “Come on, let’s warm up! I think we’re definitely going on a night run! Old Tang is fashionable!”
Xie Yu prepared to do a 1000m run, but in the end Old Tang made them line up and commanded, “Let’s take a walk.”
Luo Wenqiang was thinking of flying freely on the running track. When he heard the words ‘take a walk,’ he was confused. “Sir, this is…?”
Old Tang was in a joyous mood, too. He put his hands behind his back and said, “I’m taking you on a stroll.”
Luo Wenqiang had completely lost his ability to think.
After Old Tang had gone back, he was still worried about them. So the middle-aged man racked his brains and thought about it backwards and forwards, and had picked an inconceivable way of helping them relieve stress that didn’t suit young people at all.
The boys and the girls each formed a line, and the two lines of students walked around the quad once.
As Xie Yu walked, he was mulling over which way to escape back to the dorm later. He Zhao glanced at him and immediately knew what he was calculating. He reminded in a whisper, “Give the middle-aged man some face. We’ll see. Anyway, he’ll make us walk two rounds at most.”
“…Who’s not giving the middle-aged man face, here?”
Old Tang really didn’t lead them on the walk for very long. Less than two rounds later, he was tired and sat on the track to talk with them.
The sky grew thoroughly dark.
The wind that rushed up to meet their faces was slightly cool.
Perhaps they were influenced by the night scene or couldn’t clearly see each other’s expressions. The feelings which everybody wanted to say, but usually pressed down and didn’t dare to reveal, now bubbled up.
They were far from the top, even in a dangerously low position. Facing the college exams and facing the city rankings from where they were, it would be a lie to say that they weren’t panicking.
Old Tang sighed lightly. “Maybe some of you think that you didn’t do well this time. That’s not true. If you didn’t try hard, that’s one thing, but there’s no such thing as not doing well. I think you all are very good and you can be even better.”
Xu Qingqing had initially already dealt with her feelings, but for some reason they all rushed up again and she started crying again, pathetically.
But it wasn’t out of sadness. She felt as if someone was tousling her head after she had fallen down.
“And someone told me that they felt confused about the future and uncertain,” Old Tang said. “That’s not confusion… silly kids, your futures contain endless possibilities.”
For a moment, no one said anything.
Around them, only several rows of streetlights outside the quad’s chain-link fence were lit. The light from the roadside shone, gentle and slow.
Xie Yu braced himself on the rubber track and someone tugged at the hem of his shirt.
He Zhao lay down directly on the track, one hand pillowed behind his head. He didn’t say anything, only pointed with his chin indicating for Xie Yu to look up.
Xie Yu followed his gaze and raised his head.
He saw the sky full of stars.
Points and pinpricks, radiating light, scattered across this piece of the night sky.