When Han Dong walked out from the examination room, he saw Ji Qinyang leaning against the wall with his headphones one. They looked at each other, then the boy smiled and removed his headphones.
“Hello,” Han Dong nodded.
“Hi,” Ji Qinyang looked behind him. “Where’s Xie Meng?”
“He went to help the teacher collect the papers.”
Ji Qinyang pointed inside. “Can I go in?”
Han Dong smiled, “Go in, he should be waiting for you too.”
Xie Meng helped the invigilator bind the papers. As he was about to finish, he could not help glancing a few times outside. The invigilator saw him and could not resist asking, “Is there someone waiting for you?”
Xie Meng was a little embarrassed, “Mn…”
The invigilator joked, “Is it your girlfriend?”
Xie Meng was a little embarrassed, but he did not deny it. He quickly bound up the last few papers and stood up, saying his farewells.
“Go on, go on,” The invigilator laughed and waved. “Don’t let your girlfriend wait too long.”
Sitting in the corridor, Ji Qinyang watched Xie Meng coming from a distance. He closed his eyes and remained motionless, and as expected, Xie Meng’s footsteps became lighter as he drew closer.
Xie Meng had thought that Ji Qinyang fell asleep. He crouched down, leaning over to remove the headphones from the boy’s head.
Ji Qinyang suddenly threw his arms around Xie Meng’s neck and dragged him into his embrace.
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang opened his eyes and looked down at him, “What did you want to do?”
“…” Xie Meng tried his best not to let his entire body rest on Ji Qinyang. “You weren’t asleep?”
“I had wanted to sleep,” Ji Qinyang said lazily.
Xie Meng’s expression looked as though he did not really believe him.
Ji Qinyang used one hand and stroked Xie Meng’s hair, then pressed the back of his hand against his face.
Xie Meng, “?”
Ji Qinyang smiled, “I want to kiss you.”
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang leaned into him. “Can I?”
Xie Meng’s face was suspiciously red. He averted his eyes, and his tone was stiff, “… Why do you have to ask?”
The boy’s lips tasted a little of soda, somewhat sweet, and very clean. Ji Qinyang kissed him for a while and started to feel dissatisfied. Pinching Xie Meng’s cheek, he wiggled it slightly and coaxed him, “Open your mouth.”
“…” Xie Meng opened his mouth and his tongue immediately got caught.
They kissed for a long time, until they had no choice but to separate.
Ji Qinyang was still holding onto Xie Meng tightly.
Xie Meng pushed at him, “Let’s get up.”
Ji Qinyang hung his headphones around his neck. “Want to go to my place?”
“Next time, “ Xie Meng smiled. “There’s a temple festival tonight on Nanhao Street, Zhang Ganggang and the others are going.”
Ji Qinyang, “…”
Xie Meng only felt a weight on his shoulder as Ji Qinyang buried his face in his neck.
“…” Xie Meng could neither laugh nor cry, “What are you whining about?”
“I’m not whining.” Ji Qinyang murmured, “I’m charging myself up.”
“?” Xie Meng did not understand.
Ji Qinyang, “I need to charge myself full of the bliss in being with you alone, so that I can then share you with others.”
Xie Meng burst out laughing. “… I suddenly that it’s a little wasteful for you to be writing songs.”
Ji Qinyang, “?
Xie Meng turned his face and kissed him on the forehead. “What you say sounds even nice than what you sing.”
This temple festival was the busiest one in Suzhou every year. There were shops selling a dazzling array of items, and many children were riding on the adults’ shoulders. Looking out at it, it was a huge crowd of people.
Zhuo Xiaoyuan too lifted Zhuo Jinjin up. The little girl had her hair tied up in braids, and in her hand was a pinwheel.
Xie Meng and Ji Qinyang arrived late. They had to squeeze through the crowd for quite some time before they met up with Zhang Ganggang and the others.
“How was your exam?” There were too much noise around them, and Qi Fei had to shout, “What ranking would you get?”
Zhang Ganggang bought cotton candy that was bigger than his face. Afraid of bumping into people, he could only raise it up high. “How can you ask about the results right after an examination?”
Ji Qinyang returned with drinks that he bought, and everyone had a cup.
“When would the results come out?” Zhuo Xiaoyuan sucked on the bobas in the drink as he asked.
Xie Meng thought about it, “Probably next month.”
Zhuo Xiaoyuan, “You and Han Dong would most likely take the first two spots. His pressure is no less than yours.”
Ji Qinyang poked a straw into his milk tea, drinking a mouthful from it. He then exchanged it with the one in Xie Meng’s hand that had yet to be unsealed.
Xie Meng, “…”
Taking advantage of the fact that no one was noticing, Ji Qinyang mouthed at him, “Indirect kissing.”
Zhang Ganggang had finished his. He looked at Xie Meng who was holding onto his milk tea without touching it for some time, then asked, “Are you not drinking it? If you’re not, give it to me.” He then reached out for it.
Xie Meng hurriedly sucked on the straw…
“I’m drinking,” Xie Meng mumbled.
Ji Qinyang handed Zhang Ganggang the milk tea that was still unsealed, and the latter suddenly felt embarrassed. “Then what will you drink…”
Ji Qinyang smiled and took the milk tea from Xie Meng very naturally, “I’ll just share one with Xie Meng.”
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang placed the straw Xie Meng had sucked on into his mouth, then raised his eyebrow at him.
At night, lanterns were strung up along both sides of Nanhao Street, and bronze statues of the Eight Immortals were placed on the square. There were people dressed up as He Xiangu, carrying bamboo baskets and selling lotus flowers and lotus pods. On the stage the play of the Eight Immortals was starting, but Xie Meng and his friends were not interested.
Behind Nanhao Street was the river around the city. The sightseeing boat was full of people. Carrying Zhuo Jinjin, Zhuo Xiaoyuan stood by the banks, and the river was brightly lit with lanterns. Sounds from gongs and drums filled the air, and the dragon and lion dancers appeared. He Xiangu was tossing a lotus flower-like silk ball around, and the dragon wandered along the river.
The crowd moved slowly along with the dragon and lion dancers. Qi Fei grabbed onto Zhang Ganggang, turning his head with difficulty and warning, “Let’s walk hand in hand! If not we’ll be separated!”
Ji Qinyang pulled Xie Meng over, throwing his arm around his shoulders. He was almost hugging him as they slowly made their way forward. Zhuo Jinjin was riding on Zhuo Xiaoyuan’s shoulders all the way at the back. As they were rather eye-catching, they were not afraid of losing sight of them.
Outside a shop someone lit fireworks. Bright sparks flew everywhere, and Zhang Ganggang quickly took photos for everyone.
Qi Fei grabbed onto a lion dancer, borrowing the lion head and putting it on. Zhuo Xiaoyuan bought Zhuo Jinjin another pinwheel, and both siblings were foolishly raising their pinwheels up. Xie Meng bit into the cotton candy, while Ji Qinyang bit into the other side, and the two smiled across the candy.
“Gege!” Zhuo Jinjin excitedly patted at Zhuo Xiaoyuan’s head, shouting, “Look! There’s so many stars!”
Zhang Ganggang looked up and exclaimed, “The weather is really good.”
Qi Fei, “How rare. A few more years and we probably won’t be able to see it anymore.”
From behind, Ji Qinyang hugged Xie Meng’s shoulders. As there were too many people, such movements were not obvious.
Zhang Ganggang raised his camera, “Let’s take another photo?”
Four people stood together. Zhuo Jinjin was carried by Zhuo Xiaoyuan, and Zhang Ganggang quickly ran over after setting up the camera. In the end, his actions were too hurried and he did not stop in time, falling onto Xie Meng instead.
“Hurry hurry hurry!” Zhang Ganggang clumsily scrambled up. “We’re taking 3 shots in a row!”
“…” Xie Meng helped him up, adjusting his posture.
Qi Fei squeezed a sentence out from between his teeth. “The second shot.”
Zhuo Xiaoyuan could hardly carry his own sister anymore.
“Stay where you are! It’s the last shot!!’ Zhang Ganggang’s mouth opened wide and shouted, “K-I-S-S—!”
Ji Qinyang swiftly turned his head and kissed Xie Meng on his face.
Xie Meng, “…”
Zhang Ganggang screamed as he hugged his camera, “I didn’t ask you guys to really kiss!!! That was our only good shot!!!”
Qi Fei joked as he saw the photo, “Boss Ji, you’re so biased. Why didn’t you kiss me? There has already been so many years between us…”
Zhuo Xiaoyuan’s face was cold, but his focus was entirely on something else. “Why am I so not photogenic… It’s too ugly.”
The five people made a lot of noise, and in the end, they did not take another photo.
In that photo of youth, Zhuo Xiaoyuan’s face was expressionless as he carried Zhuo Jinjin, Qi Fei was smiling until his eyes could not be seen, Zhang Ganggang was comically trying to stand up straight, and Ji Qinyang was kissing Xie Meng on his face.
Above the city of rivers, beneath the Milky Way, the past of the long history connected with the long and mottled years that had yet to come.
On the day the results of the Math Olympiad competition was released, Xie Meng was not very concerned about it. The school pulled out the big red banner, and Xie Meng was called out by Maitreya halfway through class to take the trophy and the certificate. He even had to take a photo.
“It’s been very long since W High has had just glory.” Qi Fei looked towards the court. “Look how happy Maitreya is.”
Ji Qinyang looked from a distance, then asked casually, “What are you guys going to do after school?”
“Zhang Ganggang wants Xie Meng to tutor him in maths, I’ll probably do the same… What about you?”
“I’ve decided to take the arts route,” Ji Qinyang suddenly said. “I received a letter of recommendation from Zhong Yin last week.”
Qi Fei was stunned, then excitedly said, “Boss, you’re amazing! Doing all these without a sound?! It’s been settled?!”
Ji Qinyang smiled, “It’s only a letter of recommendation. To be accepted into their music composing faculty, I still need to pass the music theory exam.”
“I don’t understand all that.” Qi Fei clicked his tongue. He was silent for a moment, then sighed, “In about a year and a half, we’ll probably all split apart.”
Ji Qinyang did not speak. He watched Xie Meng walk through the shade. The sunlight that broke through the branches and leaves fell upon his face, and the boy had the trophy tucked casually under his arm. Walking past the corridor, he raised his chin and looked up at the second floor.
The eyes of the two people met, and Xie Meng smiled at Ji Qinyang.
After school, only Qi Fei, Zhang Ganggang, Xie Meng and Ji Qinyang were left in the classroom. Maitreya had left the key behind. Afraid of noise, Qi Fei closed the doors to the classroom.
The four people put the tables together. Qi Fei and Zhang Ganggang sat side by side, like students, while Xie Meng sat opposite them. He picked out their wrong answers and explained them. Ji Qinyang had nothing to do, and so listened to music as he wrote lyrics, and was pretty peaceful.
“Bring a into b, then it’s proved…” Xie Meng’s pen suddenly drew a long line on the paper. Zhang Ganggang looked at it for a long time, but still did not understand.
“Prove what?” Zhang Ganggang looked blank. He glanced at Qi Fei, who looked even more stupid than him…
Xie Meng frowned slightly. He seemed to be enduring something, and quickly finished the explanation for that question.
“Do you understand?” Xie Meng took a deep breath. Under the desk, Ji Qinyang’s hand was on his leg, while he was writing with his head on his hand as though nothing was happening.
“…” Zhang Ganggang began to seriously doubt his IQ. He had no choice but to ask, “Could you… repeat it again?”
Ji Qinyang’s hand moved to Xie Meng’s knee, and the latter shrank a little as he was ticklish.
Qi Fei, “?”
Xie Meng said awkwardly, “Sorry, I bumped into you…”
Ji Qinyang finally pulled his hand back. Xie Meng resisted the impulse to look at him, and repeated his explanation.
Zhang Ganggang and Qi Fei seemed to finally understand. They took their papers back and redid them. The next second, Xie Meng’s hand was caught by Ji Qinyang under the desk.
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang pretended to look out of the window with his head resting on his hand. The boy’s fingers slowly slid across Xie Meng’s palm, then finally intertwined their fingers tightly together.