May, June, July.
During the scorching summer.
The classroom was filled with students sitting for an exam and with proctors sitting at the front and the back of the room trying hard not to fall asleep. Fu Jia stopped writing and looked up at the ceiling fan suspended above which creaked as it spun. His vision was a blur.
He rubbed his eyes, and only then did he realize that his sweat dripped into them.
“The exam is now over. Everyone, please stop writing.”
After the bell rang out loud, the proctors stood up and allowed the candidates to leave the exam room. As Fu Jia went along with the moving crowd, the sun outside blazed fiercely and dazzled him.
Once he exited the school, Fu Jia instantly made a beeline to the KTV bar located several blocks away.
As he entered the back door of the KTV, Fu Jia greeted his boss before he changed into his work clothes.
When Cen Mengke said that she wanted to be Fu Jia’s boss, her words were not just for show. In the past two months, she found out a lot of about Fu Jia, such as the fact that he intended to transfer to No. 6 High as well as the fact that he would work part-time at a restaurant outside of the school the moment he had any spare time.
Thus, Cen Mengke introduced a teacher from No. 6 High to Fu Jia and also went out of her way to find and introduce a new job which paid more than washing dishes all day long.
“You’re on your school break starting from today, right?” asked the owner.
Fu Jia cautiously nodded. “Yes…I’ll need to stay here from now on.”
With a cigarette in his mouth, the owner laughed. “No problem! There’s plenty of space in the bar. it’ll take a toll on you if you’re planning to stay here since sometimes you’ll barely get any sleep at night.”
Nodding in acknowledgment, Fu Jia assured him, “It’s alright. I can do the night shift.”
Working throughout the night would earn him more cash. He had to seize this opportunity during this school break to earn more. If he really did successfully transfer to No. 6 High, he would not be able to continue working anymore as the school was very strict in this aspect. Students were forbidden to take up part-time jobs during the school terms.
The wait for the release of the final exam’s results was extremely grueling and agonizing. At times, Fu Jia actually thought that after working overnight he would instantly crash and sleep like the dead until the afternoon. However, he would always startle himself awake after a couple of hours or so and would no longer be able to fall asleep.
It was difficult for Fu Jia to painstakingly wait until the day his results were released. As he stared at the grade for each subject he took, he sank into a confused state.
Was this considered good or not?
He headed back to the KTV and worked nonstop from noon until the evening. He then seized the opportunity during his dinner break to make a phone call with the lousy phone he had.
After Cen Mengke gave him the No. 6 High’s teacher contact number, Fu Jia went and bought the most outdated cell phone model—the sort with keypads on it. The only number stored on it was this Mr. Wang’s phone number.
“Hello, Mr. Wang? I’m Fu Jia, the one Cen Mengke mentioned to you last time…”
Mr. Wang seemed to try to recall who he was. He paused briefly before laughing and said, “Yeah, I remember you.”
Tightly gripping the phone, Fu Jia said, “It’s like this. My results for the final exam…”
“I know,” Mr. Wang cut him off. “Mister Fu, your father already sent someone over to talk to me about it. Don’t you worry! Leave this to me. I’ll contact the administration office on No. 16 High’s side as well to transfer your enrollment over. I’ll contact you again by calling this number if there’s anything else I need you to do. Is that alright with you?”
His response had caught Fu Jia by surprise.
Was he hearing things or was Mr. Wang clearly mistaken?
The two words he was about to utter seemed to entangle itself tightly around Fu Jia’s tongue, making it hard for him to pronounce clearly and smoothly. “My father?”
“Yeah. Mr. Lin Qing’s secretary got in contact with me a few days ago,” Mr. Wang clarified.
Fu Jia almost lost his grip on his cell phone.
Mr. Wang continued to say something more, but Fu Jia was incapable of listening to anything else. He only acknowledged Mr. Wang with a couple of non-committal sounds.
He was stuck in a trance for a long while after the call ended.
His father, Lin Qing?
What a joke! Fu Jia gave an absurd laugh, his body turning as cold as ice. Thinking that the cold came from a strong air conditioner in the KTV, he went out through the back door and stood under the sun for a while. He eventually recovered, regaining the heat he lost before heading back in to continue submerging himself in work.
When he was about to set foot through the door, he noticed a colleague of his looking around in all sorts of direction as if he were looking for something. The moment the colleague caught sight of Fu Jia with a turn of the head, he hastily called out, “Fu Jia!”
Fu Jia walked over. “Yes?”
“Go to the front desk. Someone seems to be looking for you.”
“Me?” In that split second, Fu Jia had a premonition.
He rushed to the front desk, and as expected, there was a woman dressed in a well-fitted business suit sitting on the sofa waiting for him. Seeing Fu Jia approaching her in quick steps, she stood up and nodded in his direction. “Hello, I’m Mr. Lin’s secretary.”
It really was Lin Qing.
Fu Jia stared at her coldly and did not utter a single word.
There was only indifference in the secretary’s eyes. “Mr. Lin is waiting for you outside. Follow me.”
Twisting his face away, Fu Jia shot back at her, “I’ve nothing to say to the likes of him, and I don’t know you. You should leave.”
The secretary smiled. “That won’t do. Mr. Lin never liked this place to begin with. If he wishes, you won’t be able to work here as a server anymore.”
The indifference in her tone made the whole thing seem completely irrefutable.
Taking in a deep breath, Fu Jia straightened his back and said, “Lead the way.”
A grin emerged on the secretary’s face.
Lin Qing’s car was just waiting outside. The secretary led Fu Jia all the way to the side of the car and gently knocked on the window when she arrived. “Mr. Lin?”
The window rolled down and revealed Lin Qing’s figure sitting within the car.
Lin Qing had always been unruly and headstrong since he was young. Although he was born into the Lin family, he stopped his studies ever since he graduated from elementary school, arguing with his family that he wanted to take up art. The Lins hired an art teacher for him, but before two days could even pass, he wanted to learn music instead. In the following years, he learned everything there was to learn in art.
After he grew a little older, he could not keep himself still anymore and traveled all around the world to the point where his family could not see him year after year. By the time he came back, his hair was already quite long and was dyed blonde which angered his mother so much that she collapsed.
But only men like him, who were as passionate as a burning flame and had many tricks up their sleeves, have the ability to conquer the infamously difficult Lu Wanqing.
Currently, Lin Qing, who was now past the age of forty, had his shoulder-length hair tied at the back of his head and looked so young that he looked like he was the same age as Fu Jia.
Narrowing his eyes, Lin Qing said, “Get in the car. We’ll talk.”
Fu Jia did not make any sign to move. Seeing this, the secretary hurriedly moved to open the door and ushered him to go in. “Get in.”
Only then did Fu Jia slip into the car. The secretary shut the door, leaving both him and Lin Qing locked up in an airtight space alone. The very thought of it made his skin crawl.
He could smell the thick cologne permeating from Lin Qing’s body.
And it made him sick.
The prologue of their play went down like this:
“Thank you for moving out,” Lin Qing said quickly. The first two words flashed by very lightly as if he said it incorrectly.
Fu Jia sneered, “Don’t say that to me. I didn’t move out because of you.”
Lin Qing silently smiled. His hands alternated between clasping together and settling on his knees.
The very thought of even glancing at Lin Qing disgusted Fu Jia to no end, so he tore his gaze away and stared down at his hands which were clenched into fists. “What’s the deal with Mr. Wang? Did you send someone to spy on me?”
Lin Qing laughed out loud. “It made me very curious when you suddenly moved out. For a decade, you’ve always been a mangy mutt. I wondered why you were suddenly enlightened. It had me a little worried, so of course I had to keep my eye on you for a while.”
Fu Jia was furious, boiling with anger to the point where his entire body shook. He gripped the door handle tightly and attempted to get out, but no matter how much he tried, how much force he used, he was not able to swing the door open.
“Open the door,” Fu Jia ordered with a trembling voice.
“We’re not done yet,” said Lin Qing. “The time you spend here as well as how many words you have to take in, it all depends on me. You neither have a say in the matter nor have the right to do so.”
Fu Jia clenched his fists even tighter than before. He had to bite down on his tongue to control himself from lashing out and sending a direct punch to Lin Qing’s face.
Lin Qing could clearly see the veins pulsing on Fu Jia’s temples as well as the incessant quiver that shook his body. He continued, “I’m very surprised that you enjoy studying so much. If you had shown such interest at the start, I would have already sent you to No. 6 High earlier on. But I’m still very curious as to how you came to like studying? I’m not the studious type. It’s the same for your mom.” Here, he paused momentarily before continuing again. “Fu Xiaoli…”
Before he could even finish, Fu Jia punched the car window which shook the car. “Does this even concern you?”
Lin Qing frowned in annoyance. “It’s useless for you to contact Mr. Wang with your own efforts. Do you have any idea about your ranking? It’s a joke.”
“That has nothing to do with you,” Fu Jia said through gritted teeth.
As Lin Qing stared at him, his gaze gradually turned cold. “You should be thanking me on your knees. If I didn’t help you, you would never get into No. 6 High in your lifetime.” He added, “Tell me. Why do you want to transfer schools? Why do you want to go and pester Lu Qi’an?”
His breath hitched, and Fu Jia snapped to look at Li Qing in bewilderment.
“Don’t even think about using those cheap tricks of yours.” Lin Qing’s voice was dripping heavily with annoyance. He glanced at Fu Jia, seemingly able to see right through his ploys. “What is yours will be yours. What is not yours will never be yours. Lu Qi’an is not that easy to deceive. Regardless of how you hard you try to curry favor with him, he will not grant you the benefits you seek. You’re the same as Fu Xiaoli, adept in clinging to people like leeches. However, your attempts are futile. No matter how you pour the water at a great height, it will always come flowing down.”
He tapped the touchpad next to him, unlocking the Fu Jia’s side of the door. “Leave.”
Mimicking Lin Qing’s action from before, Fu Jia laughed in silence.
He really was a mirror image of Lin Qing, so this laugh of his resembled Lin Qing’s perfectly.
Turning towards Lin Qing, he whipped out his hand—
—And sent a hard slap which cut sharply through the air across Lin Qing’s head.
Lin Qing’s mouth opened in disbelief as he forced back a cry of pain and gaped. Touching his face, the area he was struck had gone completely numb.
“Fu Jia!” Lin Qing tried to hold back his anger. “Don’t act as if I owe you anything! I could have ignored you when you were eight and let you starve or freeze to death on the streets. But I still took you in and brought you back to the villa. Who the hell do you think you are to have the right to criticize me?!”
“I don’t owe you anything either!” Fu Jia bellowed back at him without raising his volume, but every word was uttered viciously with deep hatred as though they could bite down and snap off Lin Qing’s neck on Fu Jia’s behalf.
He rammed opened the car door and ran out as fast as his legs could carry him.
Lin Qing watched Fu Jia’s retreating figure with a grim look on his face, not saying a single word.
There was an undying cloud of heat steaming in the summer evening that was desperately trying to seep into Fu Jia’s body. When he covered his ears tightly, it would enter through his mouth and nose, and when he shut them tight, it would dive in through his pores.
He stumbled and barged into the KTV’s washroom, turned on the tap, and then washed his head under the water. But he could not get rid of the heat.
He felt like he was about to explode as his blood began to boil from the depths of his body. The blood coursing through his veins that came from Lin Qing and Fu Xiaoli. The blood disgusted him to no end and made him sick to the point that Fu Jia had an insuppressible need to vomit.
And so he did. He puked everything out.
The whole world finally quieted down.
The only thing that echoed in Fu Jia’s ears was his own gasp for breath.
He suddenly thought of Lu Qi’an.
It was Lu Qi’an who said that he did not need to change his parents nor his background. It was Lu Qi’an who said that he would treat him objectively and disregard everything around him.
Did those words still count now?
Fu Jia raised his head and met his own bloodshot eyes reflected in the mirror.