Chapter 19 — The Labor Society of The Demerit Kings (1)
Lin Mu took the lead, standing in the principal’s office, and all the second-year boys were still in their skirts as they left the sports ground. Seeing their bare legs standing in a row, Chu Lin really wanted to laugh, only managing to hold it back with great effort.
Zhong He took a few deep breaths. He was not very old, looking to be in his early forties. His hair was still very thick, and he wore a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. The bottom half of his face, because of his thin lips and sharp nose, looked a little unkind. Although his suit was well-ironed, there was still a faint smell of cigarettes and alcohol left from the night before.
Lin Mu held his chin up, refusing to look at the principal, and his neck was unbent.
“You all sure know how to kick up a fuss.” Zhong He sneered as he adjusted his glasses. He calmed down after saying that. “Are you looking to be expelled?”
Lin Mu did not respond, and An Jincheng was standing next to him. Despite being the ringleaders, they both had excellent grades, and hence, this was a great headache.
Zhong He always knew that Lin Mu was not some law-abiding student. If he was unruly, it would be fine if he was a good-for-nothing, and the teachers would not need to worry about him in that case. However, the problem was that Lin Mu was not a good-for-nothing.
Not only was he not one, his sister, Lin Zhao, was a professional Go player with a very promising future ahead of her. In Kunqian’s annual school newspaper, as well as the school’s public image of the school, Lin Zhao was basically a living mascot.
The more outstanding the twins were, the greater the benefits they were able to bring to the school. At the same time, the trouble they caused was harder to solve.
When a good student made a mistake, teachers could not hold double standards, and the student had to be punished. Therefore, not only did Lin Mu and An Jincheng receive a demerit, they had to clean up the school’s outdoor swimming pool for a semester as well. Their performance will be evaluated at the end of the semester, and their demerits would be wiped off if Zhong He was satisfied.
Cao Zhan and Xu Yilu managed to escape any punishment as they were declared to have no autonomy over the matter. The two of them at first wanted to share the woe, but after getting reprimanded by Chu Lin, asking them if they were in a hurry to seek punishment, they stopped arguing and fell silent.
On the other hand, Sun Hai and Jiang Tianhe were old hands at receiving punishments. Having been declared as accessories to this matter, they did not receive any demerits, Sun Hai and Jiang Tianhe were old hands at getting punished.
Everyone had an expression as though they were not afraid of getting punished at all. When Zhong He looked at them, he felt as though even his eyes hurt.
“Go back to your classes.” The way Zhong He waved them off was as though he disdained them for being dirty. Looking at their bare legs, a vein in his forehead pulsed, and he gritted, “Change out of your skirts!”
The event “Gege is here” had created too big a stir, and students even posted the videos on the school forum. As the moderators had to keep removing some of the more radical posts, they decided to draw a line, banning any discussion on the appearances and dressing of disabled students..
When Lin Zhao changed the name of the group chat to ‘The Labor Society of The Demerit Kings’, Lin Mu and An Jincheng dared not offer their opinions. Li Zi now added Mo Xiaoxiao and Lu Rong into the chat too.
Mo Xiaoxiao took a photo of herself wearing the school skirt, revealing her metal prosthetic below the knee, and added a shy emoticon to the image.
“Does it look nice?” She asked.
Before anyone else could speak, Sun Hai’s message popped up. “I can! I’m for it! I don’t even have a drop left in me anymore.”
The chat was left speechless.
Is he a fucking pervert?! Everyone wondered.
Ever since then, Mo Xiaoxiao alternated between pants and skirts. Although she liked wearing skirts, pants were still more convenient. Her final conclusion was that she would just wear whatever she liked.
After the name of the group chat changed, it became a chat for Lin Mu, An Jincheng, Jiang Tianhe and Sun Hai to report on their work. The four of them were really very pitiful, having to go to work halfway through their evening self-study sessions, and other people could not help them as well. Once, Cao Zhan secretly helped Lin Mu out with his cleaning, but someone saw and reported it to Zhong He. On the next day, the robber Zhong He gave them an extremely enigmatic and nauseating speech over the school’s broadcast.
“Is that robber Zhong He married?” Lin Zhao could not help asking in the group chat.
Lin Mu replied, “He’s definitely not.”
Lin Zhao responded, “How do you know?”
Although it was just words, Lin Mu’s disdain for Zhong He was clearly revealed in his tone. “His suits aren’t too bad, but he stinks too heavily of cigarettes and alcohol. Even if he has a wife, she definitely run away from the smell.”
Sun Hai continued, “That robber’s busy flattering various bosses for sponsorships and investments. Look at how many more projects Kunqian has this semester. Moral and ethics education? This robber has basically fallen into the pit of seeking wealth and benefits.”
In the eyes of the students, Zhong He’s reputation was the lowest of the low. Not only did he like nitpicking on all sorts of insignificant and disgusting rules of the school, he had often used students as a tool to boost the school’s reputation. Olympiad examinations, science conferences, competitions, awards, anything — as long as the students who participated in the events that had brought glory and honor to the school, he would trumpet it all around, announcing it in various newspapers, singling them out and displaying their achievements across the doors of Kunqian. Even Lin Zhao’s successes in Go were not spared. Through some unknown connections of Zhong He, the media even included the name of her school in their articles, and hence it became free advertising for Kunqian.
While reading the chat, Lin Mu rolled up the legs of his pants and changed into a pair of slippers. Today, he would be cleaning up the pool alone, as Young Master An was attending a school committee meeting, and it would be An Jincheng’s turn tomorrow.
Kunqian had two swimming pools, one indoors and one outdoors. There was a contractor hired to maintain the indoor swimming pool. As for the outdoor pool, it was rarely used, and it was quite troublesome to clean it. Holding onto a long water hose, Lin Mu walked by the side of the pool, pinching the mouth of the hose and spraying water at the leaves and mud on the tiles. The pool was surrounded by a wire fence about the height of a man, and the fence had already turned rusty.
The pool was just next to the sports ground, and the cleaning was done during the evening self-study sessions. Thus, there were many students playing basketball, as well as couples strolling around the sports ground, pretending that they were exercising. Since Lin Mu was one of the most popular boys in school, whoever passing by would take the initiative to greet him.
It was in the middle of September, but the sweltering heat of summer had yet to dissipate. After cleaning for a short period, Lin Mu was completely soaked in sweat. He undid a few buttons of his school shirt, rolling up his sleeves to his shoulders, and revealed a rather exquisite display of lean chest muscles.
After washing the tiles for some time, Lin Mu heard someone shouting “Jiejie”.
Chen Meihua was standing outside the fence, her smile as bright as the sun.
“How did Meimei come here?” Lin Mu put down the hose, opening the gate in the fence.
The old lady wanted to come in, so Lin Mu reached out to support her. Today, Chen Meihua wore a dress printed with little daisies, and on her feet were a pair of sandals decorated with plastic glittering butterflies.
Noticing that Lin Mu was looking at her shoes, Chen Meihua stuck her foot out. She asked, sounding pleased like a little girl, “Does it look nice?”
Lin Mu nodded. “Meimei is the best-looking person.”
He looked around and could not help asking, “Where’s Lu Rong?”
Chen Meihua said, “Little Deer has gone to buy candy.”
Lin Mu coaxed patiently, “Little Deer has gone to buy candy, but why didn’t you go with him?”
A crafty look appeared on Chen Meihua’s face. “Meimei secretly ran off to find Jiejie.”
Lin Mu could pretty much guess what had happened. He sent a text to Lu Rong and stayed with Meimei by the pool. Afraid that the old lady would slip and fall, he found a bench for her to sit, instructing her, “Meimei cannot run around here. If you fall, it will hurt a lot.”
Meimei seemed a little scared when she heard the word “hurt”. She sat obediently on the bench, hugging her knees and not daring to move.
Lin Mu continued washing the walls of the pool. Seeing her permanent frown, Lin Mu was a little baffled. “Is Meimei afraid of water?”
“Yes,” Chen Meihua answered in a small voice. “Don’t let the water hit Meimei.”
Lin Mu moved the water hose away. “Don’t be afraid, I won’t let the water hit Meimei.”
Chen Meihua nodded, but suddenly shook her head again. She spoke vaguely, “You won’t, but others will.”
She seemed to recall something, and after a long time, she continued, “Last year, at Little Deer’s old school, someone sprayed Meimei with water.”
The sun was painfully scorching. Holding onto the water hose, Lin Mu stood where he was. His back was covered with sweat, soaking through his shirt entirely. Lin Mu suddenly remembered that after hearing about Sun Hai for the first time, Lu Rong had written, “You can even become friends with someone who bullied you.”
At that time, he did not know why Lu Rong would write something like this, but Lin Mu felt that he could understand now.
Chen Meihua dared not get closer to the pool, and her eyes were fixed on the water hose in Lin Mu’s hand. Lin Mu bowed his head, thinking, then looked up and asked her, “Does Meimei want to play?”
Chen Meihua asked him cautiously, “What are we playing with?”
“Let’s play with water.”
He shoved the water hose in Chen Meihua’s hand and pointed at himself. “Meimei can spray water on me. The weather is too hot, I want to wash my hair.”
Chen Meihua’s eyes rounded, seeming to be a little in disbelief. The fear in her was obvious, and she slowly lifted the water hose with a trembling hand. Lin Mu bent his neck over, standing there without moving. After some time, he finally felt the cool water flowing over his head.
“Does it hurt?” Meimei asked while spraying at his hair.
Lin Mu closed his eyes, letting the water flow across his face. Chuckling, he spoke, yet sounding a little low-spirited, “It doesn’t hurt.”
Chen Meihua was happy when she heard him saying that it did not hurt. Reaching out, she combed through Lin Mu’s hair, washing it for him, as though she had learnt it from someone. She could not help saying, “Your hair is so soft.”
Feeling the warm and rough hand in his hair, Lin Mu fell silent for a moment before asking, “Have Meimei ever helped Little Deer wash his hair?”
Chen Meihua’s actions paused. She tried very hard to remember, and in the end, she said regretfully, “Meimei cannot remember anymore.”
Lin Mu did not continue speaking, and patiently waited for Chen Meihua to wash his hair. The old lady later got into the fun of playing with water, spraying it everywhere. Lin Mu did not dodge the sprays, but taught Chen Meihua how to pinch the mouth of the water hose and direct the spray towards the mud on the tiles.
When Lu Rong arrived, he saw his grandmother and Lin Mu squatting down and playing with water. Chen Meihua was holding the water hose up to wash Lin Mu’s face.
Lin Mu did not realize that there was now another person around him. With his eyes closed, he asked as he no longer felt any water on his face, “Is my face clean now?”
No one responded.
A few rough fingers gently stroked across Lin Mu’s eyelids, eyelashes and eyebrows. Drawing a circle, they stopped somewhere near the bridge of his nose.
Lin Mu opened his eyes without thinking.
Lu Rong was pretty much cupping Lin Mu’s cheek in his hand. Then, as if nothing had happened, he took his hand away.
“Don’t go along with Meimei making trouble,” Lu Rong said. When he stood up and looked down, he could see into Lin Mu’s gaping collar. Soaked with water, the shirt was a little translucent, clinging onto the lines of Lin Mu’s back. The view from this angle was really too perfect, revealing a sight of the unlimited splendor of spring.
Yet, Lin Mu was not aware. He stood up, brushing his wet fringe back and saying casually, “Since Meimei likes it, just let her play.”
He tilted his head and smiled, asking Chen Meihua, “Are you still afraid of water now?”
The old lady did not disappoint him, saying loudly, “Meimei is not afraid anymore!”
Lu Rong stood in silence. He seemed resigned, looking like he had no other choice but to go along with them.
Lin Mu still had to finish cleaning up the pool, and Lu Rong and Chen Meihua accompanied him. With candy to eat, the old lady did not want to speak anymore; she had only a few teeth left, and thus, she had to eat it carefully.
The evening sun was still shining brightly. Chen Meihua could not stand the heat and moved to sit in the shade, but Lu Rong remained standing by the pool.
Afraid that it would be too hot, Lin Mu asked him to go into the shade.
Lu Rong shook his head. “It’s fine.”
After a pause, he continued, “I’ll stay with you.”
Lin Mu was a little delighted. Just as he was about to finish up, an idea crossed his mind. Later we’ll fill up the pool, and we can wash up in it together.”
Lu Rong bit his lip. “This is a swimming pool.”
Lin Mu did not feel that there was anything wrong with what he said. “Let’s swim together then. Come on, we’re both guys, you don’t have to be shy.”
Lu Rong did not know what to say to that.