Chapter 8 — A New Year (4)
Lin Mu believed himself to be the type of person who was great as social interactions, and it was all thanks to Lin Zhao. He remembered that as a child, there was once Lin Zhao and he went out to play together. It was rare to for them have no parents around, and they could only go to the places such as the sandpit near their home, and the convenience store.
The twins were very pretty and adorable. Along with their quiet, obedient, and likable personalities, they were always the center of popularity wherever they went.
At that time, Lin Zhao was obsessed with the banana flavored Bingrae ice cream sold at the convenience store. She was unable to buy it alone; every time, she had to wait until Lin Mu accompanied her. Ten years old was an age group where boys were very playful. No matter how close the twins were, there were times when Lin Mu would consider her as a burden to him.
There was a swing in the sandpit – the spot where all children desperately fought for. When Lin Mu won the spot, he was unwilling to leave, and pretended not to see Lin Zhao signing at him from the side.
In the end, Lin Zhao could only go to the convenience store alone.
Lin Mu swung by himself for a while, yet his mind got a little off track with Lin Zhao – he was worried about her. He stretched out his neck, looking across the road, while his playmate was chattering alongside him.
“Doesn’t your sister know how to speak?” Children had no conception about the deaf-mute. Hence, his playmate found it strange to see the twins being so focused on each other.
At this time, Lin Mu was still a little self-conscious, afraid that Lin Zhao would embarrass him. As such, he only mumbled an acknowledgment.
The little playmate spoke again, “Whenever I speak to her, your sister ignores me.”
Lin Mu was a little unhappy. He explained on behalf of Lin Zhao, “She didn’t mean to ignore you, she just can’t hear.”
The little playmate understood, and exclaimed loudly, “Is she deaf?”
Lin Mu glanced at him, an unpleasant feeling and anger rising in him, yet he did not know what he was mad at. He leapt off the swing and stumbled his way out of the sandpit.
“Hey!” The little playmate called out to him, “Aren’t you going to play any longer?”
Lin Mu turned his head, replying loudly, “I’m not playing with you anymore. I’m going to find my sister!”
Standing outside the convenience store, Lin Zhao was a little hesitant. She poked her head inside and discovered a different person at the counter – a young girl she did not recognize.
Frankly speaking, Luo Yu was not happy about having to watch over her family’s convenience store, but she had no choice. Her grandfather had sprained his ankle, so her parents had to take care of him in the hospital. As such, they could only ask Luo Yu, currently in the midst of her first university’s semester break, to take over the store temporarily.
How could a university student stand such mundaneness? Until now, Luo Yu’s morning grumpiness had yet to dissipate, and she had just painfully rejected her close friend’s invitation for a karaoke session. Forget about greeting the customers with a smile; even when she was collecting money for goods purchased, her face was extremely dark.
The convenience store had an automatic door; it chimed with a welcome when Lin Zhao entered. Luo Yu did not even look up, so it took her a while to realize there was a little girl standing in front of her.
The ice cream freezer was kept behind the counter, so customers had to ask the person at the counter to get ice cream for them.
Luo Yu assumed that the little girl wanted some ice cream. Standing up, she asked lazily, “What would you like?”
Lin Zhao stared hard at Luo Yu’s lips. She vaguely understood what she had asked, so she reached out and pointed at a poster on the counter.
It was a “Binggrae” advertisement, along with many others.
Luo Yu frowned.
She did not know why the little girl did not speak, and wondered if she was playing a prank on her. Hence, her face became sterner, and she repeated her question impatiently, “What exactly do you want?”
Lin Zhao’s cheeks blushed rapidly. She seemed to feel ashamed but was unwilling to give up just like that. Mustering up her courage, she raised her hand to touch her mouth and then waved her hand slightly.
Luo Yu finally realized what was going on. “You can’t speak?”
Lin Zhao could not hear, so she pointed at her ear, waving her hand again.
Luo Yu was a little shocked. Unconsciously, she glanced towards the door, then left the counter and held Lin Zhao’s hand. “Where’s your family? How could they let you come alone to buy ice cream?” Only then did she realized that the little girl could not hear, and so she brought her behind the counter and opened the door of the freezer chest.
Lin Zhao looked up at her.
Luo Yu smiled. “What do you want to eat? Just take it yourself.”
Lin Zhao managed to understand what she was saying. She hesitated for a moment, then reached out and picked a banana flavored Binggrae ice cream.
Luo Yu assisted her in removing the wrapping. Lin Zhao wanted to pay, but Luo Yu refused to accept it, saying, “It’s on me.”
Perhaps she thought Lin Zhao was a lost, deaf-mute child, and so she was worried about letting her go like this. Thus, she situated Lin Zhao in the counter and decided that she would call the police if no one came in to look for her.
Lin Zhao, on the other hand, had no clue what was happening. She sat obediently behind the counter, slowly eating her ice cream as she swung her legs expressionlessly.
Very quickly, Lin Mu came looking for her.
His forehead was covered with beads of sweat in his anxiety, and he was called to a halt by Luo Yu. Her expression was a little stern as she reprimanded him, “How could you leave your sister out there alone?”
Lin Mu was unable to justify himself. Feeling both aggrieved and ashamed, he held onto Lin Zhao’s hand, speaking quietly, “I’m sorry.”
Lin Zhao did not hear him, but she reached out and patted her brother’s head.
Later on, Luo Yu spent her entire summer break watching over the store. Her parents had no idea what had changed their daughter’s mind; she had been so reluctant at first, but now, while watching the store, she even brought with her a stack of children’s books.
The time Lin Mu spent playing in the sandpit became significantly shorter. He seldom fought for the swing now, and even started playing house with Lin Zhao.
If other girls wanted to speak to his sister, he would be their interpreter.
“You’ll be Mama.” He looked at Lin Zhao’s hands and then asked the other girls, “Who will be Baby?”
Nobody was willing to be the baby. Sighing exasperatedly, in the end, Lin Mu took it up himself. “Alright, I’ll be Baby.”
Naturally, among the boys around seven or eight years old, there would be some irritating, hateful ones. They stood in the sandpit, making fun of Lin Mu for being a sissy. Lin Mu was furious, but before he could react, the girls acting as “Papa” and “Mama” started attacking them instead.
At that age, gender did not matter in children’s fights. In fact, some girls developed physically faster, and thus they had the advantage in height and strength over boys. Holding the boys down in the sandpit, they roared sincerely, “Don’t bully my child!”
Around Lin Mu’s neck was a girl’s handkerchief — used to represent as a bib. At this moment, he could only continue to pretend as if he were a baby and tried his hardest to make a couple of cries.
“I should’ve realized this sooner.” Lin Zhao sat on the bench outside the convenience store. Sucking on a banana flavored Binggrae ice cream, she signed slowly, “You’ve always been fantastic at acting since young.”
Lin Mu was wordless.
Luo Yu inherited the family store after graduation, and she expanded the business. From its modest start of a store, the business grew to include numerous stores spread across the entire East Zone. Even though the twins and their family later moved away, they still went to her shop out of habit.
“You should work hard, too,” Lin Mu advised his sister patiently. “Don’t end up spilling the beans; I almost let the cat out of the bag today.”
Lin Zhao smiled wickedly. “So, did you really go to the washroom with Meimei?”
Lin Mu signed resignedly, “Of course not, I waited outside, okay?”
Lin Zhao laughed so hard that she had to hug her belly. Luo Yu was carrying out her son, who just celebrated his hundred days of age, and she could not help but ask when she saw the two of them, “What are you laughing at? Something happy?”
Lin Mu hurriedly replied, “It’s nothing!”
Luo Yu did not believe him. She looked down at Lin Zhao with a questioning look. As his elder sister, she considered her brother’s dignity. Shaking her head lightly, she then reached out, wanting to carry the baby.
Luo Yu carefully tucked her son into Lin Zhao’s arms. She had picked up sign language too, and signed at Lin Zhao, “Tell me if Lin Mu ever bully you, I’ll beat him up for you.”
Carrying the baby, Lin Zhao swayed a little, looking at Lin Mu with meaningful eyes.
Lin Mu felt extremely maligned. With an aggrieved expression, he called out to Luo Yu, “Jie! You cannot be so biased!”
No matter what Lu Rong actually thought, Lin Mu optimistically felt that he had fudged through the situation without any issue. He chose to use the term “fudge” with Lin Zhao, instead of “lie” as if it were less dishonest.
There was only one day left to the end of the military training for the first-year students, and the official “military parade” would be conducted in the afternoon. While the third-year students had to focus on their studies, second-year students would participate in the parade as the audience.
When the time came to assemble the contingent, the instructor called Mo Xiaoxiao and Lu Rong to meet him separately.
“Both you don’t have to participate,” the instructor said, “you can rest in the stands.”
It did not surprise Lu Rong. He had no intention of saying anything more, so he stood there quietly.
Yet, Mo Xiaoxiao was upset about it. “Why? We can march too; we’re not going to drag the contingent down.”
The instructor wrinkled his brows, seeming to think that she was too stubborn. He suppressed his impatience and explained, “Both of you have special circumstances. Look, isn’t it good to rest in the stands? Everyone is only looking out for you, don’t overthink it.”
Mo Xiaoxiao wanted to say something, but Lu Rong stopped her before she could. He raised his chin, his eyes glimmering like black quartz under the brim of his cap.
“We’re not overthinking anything.” He swept his gaze across his classmates standing before him; some averted their eyes, muttering to each other.
The corners of Lu Rong’s mouth quirked up a little, curving into a small, false smile. He looked straight into the instructor’s eyes and said, his voice cold, “Those who are overthinking things, they themselves are the most aware of it.”