For a long time afterwards, Xie Meng would always dream about Ji Qinyang’s back as he rode away on his bicycle. He stood under the gradually dimming street light, his head turned, watching him. The boy rode very slowly, his figure flashing amidst the lights. He did not turn back, but yet looked reluctant to leave.
The next day when Xie Meng woke up, he discovered that he had overslept. Groaning with regret, he slowly sat up to find something falling out from his blanket.
Baffled, Xie Meng held the thermometer in his hand.
“You’re awake?” Zhang Xiujuan entered. She was wearing a pair of reading glasses, and reached out to him. “Give it to me.”
“…” Xie Meng obediently handed it over.
The old lady’s glasses balanced on the bridge of her nose. Holding the thermometer at a slight distance, she looked at it carefully for a long time. “It’s nearly 39˚C.”
She gestured, “Do you want to go to the hospital?”
Only then did Xie Meng feel dizzy. Pulling at his hair, he coughed. “There’s no need. I’ll be fine after taking some medicine.”
Zhang Xiujuan did not nag, only saying, “I’ve applied for 3 hours of leave for you. Have some porridge first.”
After freshening up and having porridge, Xie Meng felt a little better. He took two cold tablets, and found out that it was raining outside only when he was prepared to leave.
The moment he opened the door, the rain was nearly blown onto Xie Meng’s face. The boy shivered before thinking to turn around and pick up an umbrella.
“An autumn rain and a cold.” Zhang Xiujuan changed her shoes and followed behind him, “I’ll walk you to the bus stop.”
The old lady had to carry an umbrella. Xie Meng failed to talk her out of it, and could only hunch over as much as possible. By the time they reached the bus stop, the back of his shirt was wet.
Zhang Xiujuan wiped him off as she sighed, “Grandma is really old… You’re so much taller than me now.”
Xie Meng held her hand, coughing immediately once he opened his mouth.
“You should go back quickly,” Xie Meng’s voice was hoarse. “It’s cold outside, and the ground is slippery. Don’t fall.”
Zhang Xiujuan smiled, “I should be the one telling you that.”
She looked outside the bus stop, nudging her grandson lightly, “The bus is here, quick, get on.”
After getting onto the bus, Xie Meng stood by the window, and Zhang Xiujuan waved at him. When the bus drove off into the distance, he could still see the old lady’s slightly bowed figure.
When Xie Meng arrived at school, the second lesson of the day had just finished. He bumped into Zhuo Xiaoyuan outside the door of Class 3, and it took him a long while before he reacted.
“Your fever seems very high.” Zhuo Xiaoyuan frowned, “Didn’t you apply for leave?”
Xie Meng’s head was a little stuffy. “… Why are you here?”
“The classes have already been split. Class 3 and Class 6 have been divided by the science stream and the arts stream. You’re lucky that you don’t have to move, your seat hasn’t changed.”
“…” Xie Meng looked confused, and only a moment later did he remember to ask, “What about Ji Qinyang?”
“He’s gone to Class 6. He’s in the arts stream. Qi Fei and Zhang Ganggang went there too. You weren’t here for the first two classes, if not I would have watched a play of people bidding each other farewell on a long trip.”
Zhuo Xiaoyuan helped Xie Meng carry his bag. “You’ll have to wait till the afternoon if you want to express your sympathy. They have three classes in a row of memorising ancient Chinese texts. If you go, Zhang Ganggang’s Historical Records by Sima Qian would definitely turn into Zhu Geliang’s Chu Shi Biao.”
Xie Meng followed Zhuo Xiaoyuan, returning to his seat in a state of muddledness. His mind was filled with nothing but glue named Ji Qinyang.
Zhuo Xiaoyuan looked at him in worry. “Are you really ok? Do you want to apply for a day’s leave?”
Xie Meng waved him off. His throat was so painful he could hardly speak. Half the classmates around him were from Class 6, most of them boys, and unfamiliar looking.
Zhuo Xiaoyuan sat next to him. “You sure you’re ok?”
“I’m fine.” Xie Meng coughed. He saw Maitreya coming in with a pile of papers. The bell for the third class had already rung.
Ji Qinyang finished writing the ancient test half an hour ago. Under his table, he sent a text to Xie Meng, but did not get a reply even after waiting for a long time.
The arts teachers were very indulgent towards him, mainly because of his excellent scores. As long as he did not affect anyone else, Ji Qinyang was allowed to do whatever he wanted in class.
Finally managing to wait till the class ended, Ji Qinyang headed directly over to Class 3 only to find the door closed. Glancing through the window, the expression on his face was a little ugly.
Zhang Ganggang who had followed him leaned on the windowsill. “They’re doing a test? It’ll take at least two classes then… Is Xie Meng here yet?”
Ji Qinyang frowned, and did not answer Zhang Ganggang. His eyes were glued at Xie Meng who was working on his paper. The boy had his fist in front of his mouth, and he looked like he was coughing.
“I’m going to the dean’s office.” Ji Qinyang suddenly said, “Watch over Xie Meng from here. If there’s anything, call me on my cell.”
Zhang Ganggang was shocked. “What are you going to do there… Hey, don’t go!”
Xie Meng covered his mouth, trying his best to suppress his cough. Because of his high fever, his test was blurry, and with his muddled mind, he did not know what he had written.
When doing the geometry questions, Zhuo Xiaoyuan nudged at him. Xie Meng slowly raised his head to see Ji Qinyang carrying his bag standing in front of his table expressionlessly.
“…” Xie Meng, “?
Ji Qinyang reached out and placed his palm on his forehead. He commanded him firmly, “Stand up.”
It took Xie Meng a moment before he made a questioning sound.
Ji Qinyang pulled the pen and paper away from the boy. Pulling the desk away, he packed everything into his bag. Turning around, he saw Xie Meng obediently putting his coat on.
“Why did you wear so little?” Ji Qinyang reproached him. He took off his coat and placed it around Xie Meng, tugging it over him and fastening the buttons.
Xie Meng sniffed, and his voice was like a buzz, “Thank you…”
Ji Qinyang patted him on his head, laughing.
Maitreya was standing at the door, waving the two leave forms in his hand, “Aren’t you ashamed that your teacher have to help you submit your own leave form?”
“Then you can give it to Zhang Ganggang.” Ji Qinyang carried two bags with one hand as he supported Xie Meng with the other. He called out to Zhang Ganggang, “We’ll leave first.”
Zhang Ganggang hurriedly nodded. “All right all right, be careful on your way back, we’ll come after school!”
“Why are you coming.” Ji Qinyang spoke bluntly, “Why would we need so many people at a place like the hospital? It’s enough for me to accompany him.”
“…” Zhang Ganggang was very hurt, and he looked at Xie Meng with eyes wide open.
Xie Meng coughed, barely managing to wave at him, “You really don’t have to come… I’m fine.”
“Go back to class,” Ji Qinyang said impatiently. “It’s not a parting of life and death, what are you feeling upset about?”
Zhang Ganggang, “…”
There were quite a lot of people in the hospital Ji Qinyang bought a mask for Xie Meng, and when the boy put it on, only his black, glimmering eyes were revealed.
Ji Qinyang could not help turning back to look at him when he was filling up the registration form. Finally, he could not hold himself back anymore. Taking the opportunity when no one was paying attention to them, he hugged Xie Meng and kissed him on the lips through the mask.
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang smiled, “You look like a puppy.”
Xie Meng looked at him, his voice muffled, “… You’re the puppy.”
Ji Qinyang laughed. He rubbed his nose against Xie Meng’s, holding him in him arms.
Registering to see a doctor, Xie Meng then did a blood test. Ji Qinyang ran downstairs to get his medicine. The doctor looked at the test results and suggested that he get an IV drip. The two found an empty spot and waited for the nurse to come, then Ji Qinyang went to borrow a blanket to cushion him under his body.
“Do you want something to eat?” Ji Qinyang stared at the nurse injecting Xie Meng. He smiled at her, and the lady blushed.
Covered with Ji Qinyang’s coat, Xie Meng looked at the clock on the wall gloomily. “It’s already past 12… Are you hungry?”
Ji Qinyang pulled the coat up on him. “I’ll go buy some porridge. You can take a nap first.”
When Xie Meng was about to groggily fall asleep, he felt someone place something warm under his hands. Opening his eyes, he saw Ji Qinyang with his sleeves rolled up, blanching the bowl and cutlery with boiling water.
“You’re awake?” Ji Qinyang looked at him. The boy reached out and touched his forehead. “Why are you still so warm?”
Xie Meng turned his head around. In his hands was a small electric hot-water bottle with a drawing of Spongebob Squarepants on it.
“Do you feel warmer?” Ji Qinyang poured the plain porridge into the bowl. Stirring it, he scooped a spoonful and held it to Xie Meng’s mouth.
“Have you eaten…?” Xie Meng asked, muffled, porridge still in his mouth.
“Finish it up quickly, I’ll eat the rest.”
Xie Meng quickly took a few more mouthfuls before shaking his head, “I don’t want anymore, you have it.”
Ji Qinyang confirmed that he really could not eat anymore before finishing up the bowl. Pouring a cup of water for Xie Meng, he watched him eat his medicine before taking the bowl and cutlery to the sink.
“Sleep a little while more.” Ji Qinyang came back, wiping the water droplets from his hands. Unconsciously, he reached out to check Xie Meng’s temperature, only to remember that he had just washed his hands, and so pulled his hand back.
Xie Meng grabbed him. “Don’t run around here and there. Take a rest.”
Ji Qinyang agreed with him. He did not pull his hand back, and just took a seat next to him.
The drops from the IV drip were not very fast. Ji Qinyang looked up at it, carefully rubbing around the needle on the back of Xie Meng’s hand.
“How warm.” Xie Meng suddenly spoke with his eyes closed.
Ji Qinyang raised his brow. “You’re talking about the IV?”
“Mn. It’s been warmed up by you.” Xie Meng smiled at him. “My veins, my blood vessels, my muscles.” The boy pointed at his heart, “Also, right here. They’re all very warm.”
Ji Qinyang could not help laughing, “You’re very mushy.”
Xie Meng spoke helplessly, “I’m also a male. How can I not know how to say such sweet things?”
Ji Qinyang joked, “If you’re really so touched, join me in Beijing?”
Xie Meng did not say anything. Ji Qinyang held his hand without the needle, “Why not, let’s arm wrestle. If I lose, I’ll let you go to Shanghai. If I win, we’ll go to Beijing together. How about that?”
Xie Meng frowned, “… Are you bullying an invalid?”
Ji Qinyang said shamelessly, “I have no choice. You’re so impressive, if I don’t take advantage of this opportunity, how will I win?”
Xie Meng bit his lip. He looked at Ji Qinyang, who surprisingly did not have a smile on his face, but instead had his hand raised with a serious expression.
“I’ll count to 3.” Ji Qinyang looked at him earnestly, “You’re not allowed to let me win.”
At the start, the two of them, just like their first time, were a match for each other. Xie Meng stared at Ji Qinyang’s wrist, focused, trying his best to not let his hand be pressed down. As they were in a stalemate, Ji Qinyang suddenly asked, “Are you refusing to go to Beijing because you can’t leave Grandma behind?”
Xie Meng looked up in surprise. He felt his wrist relaxed, and the back of Ji Qinyang’s hand was on the chair.
“…” Xie Meng, “You…”
Ji Qinyang clicked his tongue remorsefully. “If I knew I wouldn’t have said anything. As expected, I needed to concentrate.”
Xie Meng’s face was blank for a moment.
Ji Qinyang held his head, looking into Xie Meng’s eyes and smiling, “Seems like I can only apply for Shangyin now.”
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang took out his headphones from his bag and placed them on Xie Meng’s head.
“Go to sleep.” He kissed him on the forehead, “I’ll be here with you.”
When the nurse came to remove the needle, the sky had already turned dark. Xie Meng gave Zhang Xiujuan a call, and also applied for leave tomorrow afternoon with Maitreya.
Ji Qinyang’s coat was still covering Xie Meng. The boy stuck both his hands in his pockets, standing by the side and looking at him.
“I’ll accompany you tomorrow afternoon.” Ji Qinyang touched Xie Meng’s face, “Why do I feel like you’ve lost weight again?”
Xie Meng grabbed his hand and laughed, “You’re exaggerating so much… I feel so much better now.”
Ji Qinyang opened his arms and embraced him.
Xie Meng placed his chin in the burrow of his neck. Because he was wearing too many clothes, he was unable to lift his hands up. “… Then what about the recommendation letter from Zhongyin?”
“It’s only a letter of recommendation. I can only reply it in the first semester of our third year in high school, and I first have to take the music theory exam in the school break during our second year.” Ji Qinyang laughed quietly in Xie Meng’s ear. “I’ve applied to Shangyin as well. It’s good to always have another opportunity.”
Xie Meng did not speak. Ji Qinyang held him, standing by the road and waiting for a taxi. Many of the passersby looked in their direction, but Ji Qinyang looked uncaring, hugging onto Xie Meng as he hummed a tune.
Xie Meng was entirely buried in Ji Qinyang’s arms. He suddenly said something, and the other person laughed. Ji Qinyang’s chin rested on his head as he coaxed him, “You said it so softly, how could I have heard it clearly?”
“… If you couldn’t hear it clearly then forget it.”
“You’re so petty.” Ji Qinyang laughed and pretended to complain. He held Xie Meng’s face, their foreheads against each other’s, and in their eyes were only each other.