Quality Checker: Tezuka
First Published on Chaleuria.
Today was a fine day – the rain that had lasted for the past few days finally came to an end as the sun shone brightly in the morning. I carried my bag and left the dorm, squinting my eyes while I observed the surroundings.
“Gu Yu!” shouted the voice from behind. As I turned around, I wondered when Su Xiaoyun had caught up with me. She was wearing a small white dress with her long hair fluttering freely, carrying books for today’s class in her arms as she gasped for breath.
“Why are you walking so fast? I almost couldn’t catch up with you.”
I immediately broke into an embarrassed smile, “Sorry, I didn’t notice you.”
“Oh, you…” Su Xiaoyun rolled her eyes, making a ‘the great me shall not be offended by the small you’ face. “Forget it, you’re always acting silly anyway.”
“What? That’s so not true.”
“Where’s the classroom for this lesson?”
“Uhh… I forgot.”
“And you still say you’re not silly?!”
Just as we were reaching the classroom building, a voice suddenly came from afar, approaching near.
“Goddess—Su—wait for me!”
I was surprised and quickly dodged aside. The person that came crashing over with no brakes barely managed to stop after stumbling a bit.
That’s right, this bold and carefree fellow is my childhood best friend, Shi Yitong. But at this very moment, I totally refuse to admit that I recognize him.
“Which corner did you come out from? You scared the hell out of me!” I grumbled, “Plus, you don’t have classes today, right?”
Shi Yitong smiled sneakily, “No classes, which is exactly why I came here. I believe attending one or two extra classes from the Chinese department will help to cultivate my mind and nurture the literacy aura that I’ve neglected.”
Nurture your big head. You just want to stay beside your Goddess Su a little longer. You really think I don’t get what’s in your mind?
But the topic’s focus, Su Xiaoyun, didn’t seem to notice his ulterior motive as she said with a beaming smile, “That’s true, the classes in the Chinese department are really quite interesting. I’ve heard that some of the lecturers are doctoral degree holders.”
“Does our school really have teachers with doctoral degrees? I’m doubtful.” I couldn’t help but ridicule.
“I guess so? Our school dean definitely is one of them.” Shi Yitong interrupted.
“That’s because he’s the school dean.”
The trio continued their idle conversation as they walked towards the lecture hall. It had been an entire week since Shi Yitong’s grandfather had passed away. Shi Yitong seemed to have slowly recovered from his grief, or perhaps he was just a naturally positive person, which was why it didn’t take too long for him to return to his usual simple-minded behavior.
The freshmen classes weren’t considered difficult. Today was already Friday, hence after the early afternoon classes ended, we could rest. Yet my mood did not get better because of that, instead, I felt more worried.
As for the reason…
“Gu Yu, hey.” Shi Yitong waved his hand in front of me.
“Huh?” I came back to my senses, “What’s wrong?”
“I’ve called you so many times, what’s up with you? Spacing out again?” Shi Yitong asked, frowning.
“Sorry.” I scratched my head, “What were you saying earlier?”
“I was saying, there are no classes in the afternoon, should we head to the city area to hang out?” Shi Yitong used his elbow to nudge me, “Let’s go karaoke and ask Su Xiaoyun along. How’s that? Shall we go?”
“You just want to hang out with Su Xiaoyun,” I retorted, “Then you two just go out then. Don’t drag me into it.”
“No way, you’re more familiar with her…”
“No such thing, okay?”
Shi Yitong said with some dissatisfaction, “It’s just hanging out, what’s wrong with that? Ever since school started we’ve not gone out to play, have we? Hanging out occasionally isn’t that bad right?”
I put down the pen in my hand and replied grudgingly, “That’s not what I meant. It’s just… I need to go somewhere else.”
“Somewhere else? This afternoon?” Shi Yitong seemed to be slightly taken aback.
“Where are you going? Don’t tell me –“
I nodded my head helplessly, “That’s right, it’s exactly what you’re thinking.”
That’s right, it had been a week since I’ve met Mr. Wen Jiubo. Although it was a semi-forced agreement, I did make that promise. Yet for the entire week, I had not stepped into the old residence on the mountain at the back of the school.
“No way, Gu Yu.” Shi Yitong lowered his voice, “Are you really going to work part-time for that con man?”
“I don’t have a choice, I already made a promise.” I consoled Shi Yitong, “Besides, I don’t think he’ll ask me to do any hard labor. I’ll just treat it like hanging out.”
“That’s what you say, but I just can’t bring myself to like that guy.” Shi Yitong mumbled to himself, “He sends chills down my spine.”
“My absence is a great chance for you to ask your Goddess Su out though?” I quipped.
“I-I’m not hanging out with her alone!” Shi Yitong’s face flushed with embarrassment.
“You’ll never get to catch her at this rate.”
After class, the three of us prepared to part ways at the entrance of the lecture hall. Shi Yitong had a face that was as red as a tomato while Su Xiaoyun picked up Coo who was rubbing against her thigh as they greeted me.
“I plan to buy some cat food for Coo later, what about you guys?” Su Xiaoyun asked as she rubbed Coo’s ears.
“I’m heading back to the hostel to write my thesis.” Shi Yitong replied listlessly.
“Ah, I’m going to the mountain behind the school,” I replied.
“I see,” Su Xiaoyun smiled at me. “Then let’s part ways here. Be careful, stay safe.”
I nodded and waved goodbye to both of them.
It was currently the middle of September, normally the weather should have already cooled. But for Yan City, the hot spell during autumn was harsh – especially during mid-afternoon, the blazing sun could literally roast a person alive.
I should have known better and gone out later. I thought as I stretched out my hand to block the blinding sunlight from above and walked towards the familiar road.
—— “…So thirsty.”
—— “…So hot.”
I abruptly stopped in my tracks. Just now, was that a voice? I stood still and listened carefully but there was nothing.
Maybe I heard wrong… I thought to myself as I continued walking again. Right at that moment, the voice could be heard again.
—— “I want to drink some water…”
This time around was certainly not an illusion. I stopped again and looked around. But other than a passer-by hurrying past, there was no one else.
Yet I clearly heard someone speaking. Don’t tell me… I lowered my head and looked down at my legs. I was shocked to find a white creature curled up in the bushes just beside my feet. It was currently exposed under the scorching sun, seemingly half-dead.
I quickly squat down to check. What is this thing… it’s like a white-colored weasel – I think it’s called a white weasel or a ferret. It seemed to be quite precious, why is it at a place like this? Could it be that the voice I heard earlier was from it?