The two sat in silence for quite some time.
Shen Jie was a heavy smoker, and after finishing one cigarette he wanted another. He Zhao couldn’t stand the smell any more; he hadn’t successfully quit smoking yet, after all. He lifted a hand and pointed at the door: “If you want to smoke, do it outside. Scram.”
Shen Jie said: “It’s fine if you don’t want to smoke, but you’re restricting my freedom…”
He Zhao tossed a pillow at him.
Shen Jie reacted quickly and dodged to the side.
As they were talking, He Zhao’s phone on the table lit up, accompanied by the ‘ding-dong’ of a message notification. After a few seconds the screen went dark again.
He Zhao scooped up the phone and checked it. Xie Yu had sent seven words and a punctuation mark.
An official will observe class this afternoon.
“Who is it?” Shen Jie leaned forward and asked.
He Zhao glanced down and typed, saying, “The emotionless killer.”
Shen Jie didn’t have a strong impression of Xie Yu. He’d only started associating with the guy after the latter had become He Zhao’s deskmate.
The first impression he had of Xie Yu was that, although he was damn good-looking, he wasn’t easy to interact with. Now… after interacting with him, his first impression was confirmed
His Zhao-ge was the only exception.
“He’s only emotionless towards you.” He Zhao finished replying, then generously showed Shen Jie the screen. “See that? My deskmate is as warm as springtime to me.”
Shen Jie thought that this event was probably not as warm as He Zhao thought it was.
As Shen Jie left Class 2.3, he had personally witnessed Xie Yu tear out a piece of paper in absolute frustration, write several big words, and toss it on He Zhao’s desk. Perhaps too many people had come to ask about He Zhao’s whereabouts that morning. On that piece of paper was scrawled messily: Not around, skipped class, I don’t know.
It was the first time Shen Jie had seen someone announce so blatantly that his deskmate had skipped class. Truly, a talent.
In reality, the matter was indeed not that warm.
When an official observed class, they usually informed the school beforehand and even picked the specific day so that the teachers could prepare for every question-and-answer session. But this time around it had happened too suddenly. Xu Xia placed an urgent call back to ask Miss Wang from the class next door to look after Class 2.3 for her; no one could be absent.
Miss Wang went to class 2.3 and looked around. She stood next to the piece of paper on He Zhao’s desk for a long time, then asked Xie Yu to get in touch with him. If they really couldn’t get him back, they’d say he was on sick leave.
With less than ten minutes to afternoon class, He Zhao tidied his clothes and walked out. On the way out, he noticed Shen Jie was still in a daze and said, “What are you standing there for? Go to class.”
Shen Jie answered, “Ah,” but suddenly stopped when he got to the door. He asked, “What do we do about this? If we can’t talk about Liu Yuan, how do we settle your issue?”
The conversation had circled back again.
He Zhao stuck his hands in his pockets and said, “Let’s talk about it another time.”
As expected, the matter of Yang Wenyuan returned as a topic of conversation before long.
Firstly, Xu Xia took Yang Wenyuan to the school officials and said that this matter couldn’t be dropped just like that. Later, Yang Wenyuan’s parents even came to the school to demand an explanation.
“Just look at my son’s face and arms. It’s evil. How can there be such a person in the school?”
Yang Wenyuan’s parents both wore glasses and looked like intellectuals, but when they opened their mouths that was very much not the case. “I heard this He Zhao from your school makes trouble all the time? It’s no wonder at all that he beat our son up. Why has he not been dealt with yet? What are all of you doing?”
He Zhao’s form teacher Xu Xia stood to the side with a dark face. “We do take all responsibility for this matter. I will teach him properly. As of now, I can only gravely apologize to you. A student from my class made a mistake…”
He Zhao really couldn’t keep listening.
“Teach?” He Zhao was so angry he laughed. “Do you have the right to teach anyone?”
“—How can you talk to a teacher like that?”
The matter was at a stalemate, but at this juncture a witness appeared.
Liu Cunhao knocked on the door and entered. “Miss Xu, you were looking for me?”
When Liu Cunhao returned from the guidance center he was immediately mobbed by the class. “Class rep, we heard you testified in court?”
“Did you really see He Zhao beat up Yang Wenyuan with your own eyes?”
Liu Cunhao corrected: “Before. I saw it before.”
“Badass. Brave warrior.”
The crowd was abuzz. Everyone said that if it had been them, they wouldn’t dare risk their lives to speak up.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing,” Liu Cunhao said. “I hesitated for a while, too, but for the sake of love and justice…”
Xie Yu didn’t like passing judgment on things like these. It had nothing to do with him anyway.
What one saw with one’s eyes might not always be true, especially when it came to rumors like these.
Before he came to Black Water Street to avoid debt collectors, he had thought that the people who lived there were all good-for-nothings and hooligans. But he really had nowhere else to go. The day he got there, Xu Yanmei with her tattoos and her potty mouth had knocked on the door with a bowl of dumplings. “Made a few extra. They’re not that good, so eat them with something else.”
After this first gesture of caring, she had taken care of them for almost ten years.
“What happened? What’s the situation now, really?”
Liu Cunhao said, “…He might be expelled. This time it’s quite serious.”
While the class was chatting up a storm, Xie Yu lay on his desk and played on his phone.
After a long time, He Zhao was let out of the guidance center and returned to class. Liu Cunhao was at the podium solving a math problem as He Zhao walked into the classroom. Out of the corner of his eye he saw He Zhao’s silhouette and the chalk in his hand snapped.
Surprisingly, He Zhao didn’t even look at him.
Liu Cunhao secretly let out a breath.
Xie Yu was slightly suspicious as to whether or not the punishment they were talking about—expulsion—was true or not. Because when He Zhao returned, he was still in the mood to keep playing the dressup game.
Shen Jie reacted even more strongly than He Zhao, as if he was the one to be expelled. “Fuck that shit. Where did your class rep pop up from?!”
“What’s that noise for? He’s an okay guy,” He Zhao said. “This isn’t his fault.”
Shen Jie: “So what’s the situation now, really? They let you out to give you time to think, and they want you to apologize and write a reflection essay, right? Xu Xia is that stubborn? Is her professional life just lacking one damn thing, your reflection essay?”
The two classes had the same gym period. The two crossed the football field and walked toward the stadium.
Shen Jie talked up a storm. He Zhao might or might not have been listening; seeing Xie Yu sitting under the shade of a tree, he lifted his hand to wave to him.
Xie Yu heard someone calling his name and had just looked up when a ball flew out from the basketball field and said hi to his head. “…..”
A guy walked off the basketball court. “Hand slipped, sorry.”
Shen Jie looked at the person’s face and immediately exploded. “Fucking Yang Wenyuan, you did it on purpose, right?”
He hadn’t even thrown accurately. Going by the angle it was obvious he had been aiming for He Zhao.
He Zhao said nothing. He bent, picked the ball up, walked to Xie Yu’s side, then threw the ball hard in Yang Wenyuan’s direction. The ball grazed Yang Wenyuan and smashed into the metal fence, making a loud bang. He Zhao smiled and returned the courteous words: “Hand slipped.”
Yang Wenyuan’s friend came over to join the fray and tugged at him, urging him to leave. “Sorry, sorry.”
But Yang Wenyuan stood on the spot and didn’t move. He was as thin as a rail and his clothes seemed to hang off his very bones. His face was long and pockmarked and he had dark bags under his eyes; he looked very sickly. As he stood there he finally forced out the words: “He Zhao, this isn’t over. You’re going to lose.”
He Zhao said, “Cut the bullshit and get lost.”
“Do you know why?” Yang Wenyuan smiled. “Because your grades suck.”
“Damn you.” The words ‘your grades suck’ seem to have hit a raw nerve, or perhaps the feelings he had bottled up over the past few days had finally found an outlet. He Zhao walked up slowly and asked in a low voice, “You don’t understand human speech, do you?”
He Zhao rarely got angry.
Shen Jie had known him for many years and hadn’t seen him angry more than a few times. He Zhao’s demeanor was very good-natured; even if the other person got mad, he wouldn’t. Going from this perspective, Yang Wenyuan really was a talent.
“Let’s go, Wenyuan. Let’s go.” Even if Yang Wenyuan wanted to court death, his friends certainly didn’t, and they dragged him away.
Shen Jie really wanted to roll up his sleeves and get down to business. But he considered that He Zhao was currently in a precarious situation. If he made any more trouble, those rumors could become reality. “Zhao-ge, calm down. You have to calm down. If you want to beat him up, we’ll have to find a dark deserted alley and put a sack over his head, then we can beat him up however we want.”
Shen Jie let go only when Yang Wenyuan had gone out of sight.
“That’s Yang Wenyuan?”
“Ah?” Shen Jie looked back and saw the emotionless killer standing to the side. He replied, “Ah, Goody-two-shoes Yang, that’s him.”
Xie Yu had been trying to recall something; the guy felt familiar. By the time he finally put a name to the face, he said blank-faced, “Ah. Isn’t that the idiot who sexually harassed a girl?”
He Zhao: “……”
Shen Jie: “…How did you know?!”
“Friend, can we talk?” Shen Jie recovered from the enormous blow. “How do you know about this? Did you know Liu Yuan? Fuck, I thought that in the whole school only me and Zhao-ge knew.”
Xie Yu only said three words: “I saw it.”
It was when Xie Yu was in his first year.
The cell service from the west building wasn’t good. If people wanted to use their phones, they had to rely on fate and destiny or carry their phones around looking for a signal.
Zhou Dalei had still been livestreaming at the time. His career had just gotten started and he wasn’t that popular, so he had reminded Xie Yu to tune in on time and increase his hit count. Xie Yu looked for a signal all the way to the toilet, where the signal was not bad, but the environment was really a little unbearable.
“Boss Xie, I believe in your love for me. It surpasses excrement and urine…” Dalei said as he played his game. “Really. This is the time for you to show how much you love me.”
Love, your ass. Fuck.
Xie Yu gave Dalei a virtual present and was about to leave, but Dalei talked a lot of crap and insisted on chatting with him, saying that it was lonely without interacting with the audience and he needed Boss Xie to liven the atmosphere for him.
This ‘livening the atmosphere’ lasted all the way until the evening self-study period.
Dalei said, “If you like the streamer, give me a present! Is there anyone around? Am I that unpopular?”
Xie Yu was typing, Be lonely on your own. I’m leaving.
Before he could send it, the toilet door was kicked open with a bang, followed by the sound of shoving and a girl’s soft cry.