Chapter 21 — The Labor Society of The Demerit Kings (3)
Lin Mu was usually the one who spoke a lot; both An Jincheng and Lu Rong were not talkative people. As Kunqian’s number one wallflower, it was rumored that when An Jincheng said a sentence to the common folks, he would need to wash his mouth ten times, and he was so cold and aloof like a chicken on Mount Everest.
But right now, the most talkative Lin Mu refused to speak, and the three boys crouched awkwardly by the pool.
Chen Meihua dared to play alone with water now. An Jincheng handed the water hose to her, and the old lady smiled and thanked him. Raising the hose, she swung it here and there.
Lin Mu persisted in the one-sided war with Lu Rong. He refused to look at him, and he forcefully scrubbed at the tiled steps with a stern expression in silence. An Jincheng felt that the atmosphere surrounding the two people was not quite right. At first, he did not want to meddle in their affairs, but after some time, this pervasive awkwardness made him antsy.
A hardly seen sight, An Jincheng tried to find a topic of conversation and asked Lin Mu, “Have you finished your homework?”
The relationship between him and Lin Mu was much better than before, and so Lin Mu did not leave him hanging. “Yeah, I’ve finished it.”
An Jincheng continued asking, “What’s your answer for the second question in the Math homework?”
Lin Mu did not take too long to answer. “2.”
An Jincheng frowned. He was not very happy with this offbeat answer. Before he could utter another word, on his other side, Lu Rong suddenly asked, “Xuezhang, does Kunqian have any extra classes during the weekend?”
For the Jiangnan students who had to face immense studying pressure, from primary school until high school, the weekends never existed for them. Working adults had the 996 working hour system – working six days a week from 9 am to 9 pm; while students had only the 707 study hour system – studying seven days a week from 7 am to 12 am. Kunqian was a semi-private school, and their passing rate was a benchmark for other schools. Extra classes were held every Saturday and Sunday until three or four in the afternoon, and they allowed students to self-study until 6.30pm before they closed the school doors.
An Jincheng could not only just speak to Lin Mu. As such, he looked at Lu Rong, “Extra classes would start in October. If you can’t keep up with your studies, you can register for the classes.”
It was not compulsory for special needs students to attend the extra classes. Furthermore, the east zone held community sessions every week for the handicapped, and Lu Rong may not be able to attend classes weekly.
Lin Mu glanced over to Lu Rong intermittently. His question was directed at no one in particular, his tone inflectionless, “You’re afraid of not being able to catch up?”
Lu Rong did not look at him and replied calmly, “My studies are so-so.”
They fell into silence again.
An Jincheng, trapped between them, did not know what to do.
A few minutes later, something seemed to have fritz out in Lin Mu’s brain. He asked An Jincheng, “When are the Olympiad examinations this year?”
An Jincheng was a little uncertain. “It’s probably at the end of the year. Just take it easy with the competition before the winter break, the focus should be on the one during the summer holidays.”
Lin Mu nodded. Suddenly, Lu Rong interrupted, “Is there a science fair competition for the first-year students?”
This time, An Jincheng answered in the affirmative. “There is, but you’ll have to check with Miss Chu when it’s held.”
Lin Mu asked unexpectedly, “Are you going to participate?”
It was not sure who Lu Rong was directing his answer to, and his tone was casual as well, “I’m only just asking.”
There was a moment, An Jincheng thought he was an electrical circuit resistor that affected the flow of current from both sides.
The superficial conversation continued for a while, and the resistor An Jincheng could no longer bear with it anymore. He quickly finished cleaning up half the pool, then found an excuse and left, leaving behind Lu Rong, Lin Mu and Chen Meihua staring at the pool.
Naturally, Chen Meihua did not notice that Lu Rong and Lin Mu were at odds. After playing with water, she went to eat her candy quietly under the shade of a tree.
Lin Mu discovered that Chen Meihua, to some extent, had her own schedule. Whatever she did was based on her schedule, and nobody could stop her from doing so. Of course, this would work only when her condition was stable. When her condition was unstable, she would do things like secretly running off to look for Lin Mu, causing Lu Rong to be unable to find her.
Half of Lu Rong’s attention always had to be on his grandmother. The look in his eyes was deep, and when he focused on someone, the person would feel as though they were very important.
While scrubbing at the pool, Lin Mu sneaked glances at him. After countless times, their eyes finally met.
That focused and intense gaze tickled Lin Mu’s face like a feather.
Lin Mu did not avert his eyes. With a complicated expression, he sighed, as though he could only let Lu Rong be.
“Don’t guard against me like a thief,” Lin Mu said, “I have Lin Zhao, and I know how to take care of others.”
Lu Rong’s brows creased. A moment later, he only made a small ambiguous sound of acknowledgement.
Lin Mu continued, “I’m not like others.” He paused, seemingly about to give an example of how he was different. However, feeling that that would be too deliberate, he could only say, “You’ll understand after some time.”
Thinking for a while more, Lin Mu laughed and added, “After all, time reveals a man’s heart.”
Lu Rong did not speak. He lowered his lashes, and his gaze slid away from Lin Mu’s face. Lin Mu walked a few steps forward. Standing in the pool, he rested his arms by the edge, and looked from below, up at Lu Rong’s face.
“Little Deer,” Lin Mu called out to him, “promise me.”
Lin Mu actually also was not sure what he wanted Lu Rong to promise him, but as long as the boy looked at him, casually agreeing to it, he would no longer be at odds with him.
A good-looking junior was truly difficult to deal with, Lin Mu again exclaimed silently.
But fortunately, it’s very easy to coax me, Lin Mu added in his mind.
Lu Rong reached out, pulling Lin Mu up from the pool. The boy’s palm was not soft and tender, but firm and warm. He helped Lin Mu pull the leaves out from his hair, and Lin Mu bent his head down, asking, “Are there any more left?”
Lu Rong said no, and Lin Mu started smiling as he filled the pool.
They stayed there until the evening self-study session was about to end. Lin Zhao too had returned from the Go institute.
She came over to pick her brother up. From outside the fence, she signed, “Are you done?”
Lin Mu moved his fingers swiftly, “I’m done.”
He turned to ask Lu Rong, “Do you want to leave together?”
Lu Rong nodded. He pulled Meimei up, quietly speaking to her.
Frankly speaking, Lin Zhao was a little apprehensive of Lu Rong — Lin Mu had been extremely friendly to him when he was pretending to be her. Yet, as herself, she was very distant and estranged. she never exuded the sort of warmth Lin Mu innately had.
Lu Rong greeted Lin Zhao as well. Though he was not as enthusiastic as before, he could still be regarded as friendly. His deep gaze, however, now seemed to have some unknown implications. When their eyes met for a moment, Lin Zhao had the feeling that she was completely exposed.
Yet Lin Mu did not notice anything at all, even trying to pull the two closer. “My sister has always kept the little yellow duckling hairclip you gifted her.”
Lu Rong glanced at Lin Zhao before returning his gaze to Lin Mu. His voice was gentle as he said, “Is that so?”
With a stiff face, Lin Zhao did not respond.
That little yellow duckling was actually in Lin Mu’s drawer. She had to admire her brother’s acting, to dare lie to Lu Rong so grandiosely.
“Meimei and I have made a lot more things,” Lu Rong suddenly said. “There’s an event next week, have you heard about it?”
His question seemed directed at Lin Zhao, yet Lu Rong was not signing; obviously, he was talking to Lin Mu.
Lin Mu blinked his eyes, assuming that he was just the messenger. Naturally, he asked on behalf of Lin Zhao, “What event?”
Lu Rong answered blandly, “A picnic in the park.”
He looked at Lin Zhao again, asking “Are you going?”
Lin Zhao could not read his lips as Lu Rong spoke too fast. She shot Lin Mu a baffled look, but her brother was facing the complete opposite direction.
“Of course she’s going.” Lin Mu did not hesitate before agreeing. Only after saying that did he remember something, and signed at Lin Zhao, “There’s a community outing this week. I told him that you’d be going too.”
Lin Zhao was speechless.