Chapter 11 — Youths (3)
In the glorious, blazing sunshine, the first-year classes marched past the podium one by one in their contingents. Lu Rong was in the last row of the Class Five’s contingent, and occasionally, he would turn to look at the stands closest to him with worry. Chen Meihua was sitting there obediently with his form teacher accompanying her.
Lin Mu’s attention was naturally focused on Lu Rong. As Cao Zhan told him how Jiang Tianhe bullied him, Lin Mu listened with vague attention as he watched the Class Five contingent about to come closer.
“Ready — March!” Class Five’s flagbearer waved the flag. The students followed the command, marching towards the stands.
Cao Zhan’s voice grew louder, as well. “Jiang Tianhe called me a fool!”
While Lin Mu looked at Lu Rong’s face that was slightly hidden under his cap’s brim, he responded to Cao Zhan, “What did you say?”
Cao Zhan said earnestly, “I said, I’m Dopey!”
The flagbearer shouted, “Salute!”
Lu Rong raised his arm, his fingers tapping against the brim of his cap. As Lin Mu admired the boy’s truly handsome appearance, at the same time, he had to take care of Cao Zhan.
“You’re not listening.” Cao Zhan was a little unhappy, so he huffed, “I’m not going to talk anymore.”
Lin Mu opened his mouth, about to respond, but he saw Lu Rong’s gaze directed at him before he could utter a word.
Lin Mu was surprised.
Under the intense sun, even the breeze was warm, and it seemed as though the clouds were about to burst into flames. However, in this hot weather, Lu Rong was as cool as a mint leaf. His gaze lingered like a boat cruising by, the water rippling in its wake, swaying through without a sound.
Lin Mu held his breathe and gave him an appropriate smile, but the other party turned his head away and did not look at him again.
Cao Zhan leaned into Lin Mu, quietly asking, “Who are you looking at?”
Lin Mu heaved a deep sigh, grumbling, “I was given the cold shoulder.”
Cao Zhan was unable to understand what Lin Mu meant, so he could only nod in a vague understanding. Lin Mu gave him a complicated look, then reached out and ruffled his hair. “Is Jiang Tianhe coming for the evening self-study session today?”
Cao Zhan was confused. “Why?”
Lin Mu smiled, baring his teeth and looking a little savage. “I’ll help you beat him up.”
Cao Zhan did not know how to respond.
The principal gave a speech once the military parade was over. Lu Rong returned to the stands, to the space allocated to his class. Chen Meihua had been very well behaved, giving the teacher no trouble at all.
She seemed to enjoy seeing Lu Rong dressed in the military uniform, but she kept calling out for “Zhengnian” instead.
Lu Rong took off his cap, allowing his grandmother to see his face clearly. He spoke placidly, “Meimei, I’m not Granddad. You’ve got the wrong person again.”
Chen Meihua was a little unhappy. She hit him twice on the shoulder, but after a while, she seemed to have forgotten about it and began to sing as she swung her legs.
Lu Rong inhaled deeply. He waited for a moment before turning to look at where the second-year students were. Suddenly, Chen Meihua shifted closer to him, whispering, “Meimei saw Jiejie.”
Lu Rong’s gaze dimmed slightly, but his expression remained unchanged. “Which Jiejie did Meimei see?”
Chen Meihua pointed, speaking in earnest. “The Jiejie that accompanied Meimei to the washroom.”
Lu Rong stared at Lin Mu for some time, then he bent his neck and shifted his gaze to his grandmother, his emotions unchanging. “He’s Jiejie’s younger brother, he’s not Jiejie.”
Chen Meihua shook her head furiously, sounding just like a little girl. “Meimei knows, that’s Jiejie.”
Lu Rong seemed to smile. As though directing the question at himself, he asked, “How do you know?”
Chen Meihua paused a moment and thought about it, then twisted her plaits proudly as she laughed. “Meimei just knows.”
The first-year students were released from school early today, but the second-year students had to return to their classrooms for their self-study sessions. Since Lin Mu could not think up any new excuse to look for Lu Rong, he had no choice but to go back reluctantly.
After marking attendance, An Jincheng realized that Lin Mu was about to slip away again. Frowning, he called him to stop. “Where are you going?”
Lin Mu’s response came as though it could not be any more natural. “Next door.”
Young Master An fell silent for a moment. Suddenly, he said, “I’m going, too.”
Lin Mu was baffled. “Why are you going?”
“Don’t you know that ordinary students have to take turns to the special education class every day?”
Lin Mu, of course, knew the rule, but he also knew this rule was optional — students could decide whether to go or not; the school did not make any compulsory arrangements.
Since Young Master An wanted to come along, Lin Mu could not stop him from doing so. Furthermore, with his accomplishment of having called Chu Lin over earlier in the day, Lin Mu did not dislike him as much as he used to.
With one walking behind the other, they arrived at the door to the special education classroom. Lin Mu was very familiar with the students and the teacher in the class. After giving a round of greetings, he sat next to Lin Zhao naturally. An Jincheng, on the other hand, stood alone at the door for a while, and only then did he sit at a corner stiffly. There was a strange look in everyone’s eyes.
Lin Zhao nudged her brother, signing, “Why is he here?”
Lin Mu signed back swiftly, “Who knows? Maybe he’s having a mental episode.”
Lin Zhao could sense that the prejudice in Lin Mu’s heart was high as a mountain. A little disapproving, she turned to look at An Jincheng. Unexpectedly, she caught his gaze on her.
Perhaps he did not expect her to look over so suddenly, and he flinched.
Unconsciously, Lin Zhao gave him a sweet smile.
In the end, An Jincheng tightened his lips and looked away, frowning.
Wordless, Lin Zhao’s smile froze on her face.
Seeing his sister turn her head back in anger, Lin Mu thought she had suffered an indignance. “What’s wrong?”
Lin Zhao ran her fingers through her hair agitatedly. Kingly, as though she had a crown on her head, her fingers danced icily, “It’s nothing, I just happened to meet a crazy person.”
Lin Mu was left questioning.
The self-study sessions of the special education class were different from the other classes — unlike how students were normally seated in rows, they would cluster in small groups, and they looked as if they were not studying properly. The deaf-mute students formed the largest group; they would stick together, signing at each other energetically as though they were miming. Lin Zhao and her other friends were discussing trendy television dramas, just like any other ordinary girls.
At a time like this, Xu Yilu would be reading his braille books seriously. The teacher would specially prepare textbooks for him to revise what he had learnt in the day.
Lin Mu would often read the questions aloud to him, but halfway through, he would have to tutor Cao Zhan.
Today, before Lin Mu could finish tutoring Cao Zhan, Lin Zhao was suddenly called over by the teacher.
Her friends were even more excited than she was, signing vigorously, “It’s Lu Rong!”
Lin Mu froze for a moment. Without thinking, he turned back and immediately saw Lu Rong standing at the door, with Meimei smiling brightly at his side.
Lin Zhao’s expression was uncertain too. She glanced over at her brother, then stood up slowly. When she walked to the door, Lu Rong pointed to the side, signaling that he would like to speak to her privately.
Lin Mu could not stop himself from shifting about in his chair; the sounds he made were piercing. Xu Yilu looked up from his book, groping around and tapping on the back of Lin Mu’s hand. “What’s wrong?”
Lu Rong and Lin Zhao were almost completely concealed behind a wall. From Lin Mu’s angle, he could barely make out the edge of the boy’s T-shirt. Meimei was still standing at the door, looking at Lin Mu with a silly grin on her face.
Cao Zhan glanced at Lin Mu. Thinking for a while, he finally asked, “Why is Lu Rong looking for your sister?”
Lin Mu could only say, “They both attended the community sessions during the summer holidays… So, they know each other.”
“Oh.” Cao Zhan did not seem very interested. Looking down, he studied the questions he had just done, then raised his head and looked at him again. “So, why are you so anxious?”
Lin Mu reeled back, nearly falling off his chair. His expression was rather awful, and he forced himself to say, “I’m not anxious at all.”
Cao Zhan’s expression showed that he did not believe him at all.
Lin Mu’s back stiffened. His urge to turn his head towards the door grew stronger, yet he was afraid that Cao Zhan would again ask another embarrassing question. Scratching his head in frustration, he jabbed at the scrap paper, his tone a little fierce, “Do your practice!”
Cao Zhan was aggrieved, and said loudly, “You’re bad, you’re lying!”
Lin Mu was clearly a little conscience-stricken when he heard the word “lying”. Blocking Cao Zhan’s view of his face, he looked over to the door. Meimei was waving at him, but Lin Zhao had yet to return.
Lin Mu started getting anxious again, grumbling and complaining, “It’s improper for men and women to be interacting so closely with each other… What is there to discuss that is taking so long!”