VOLUME TWO: THE PROGRESSION OF YOUTHS
“This is your access card to everything on the campus. The items for the military training can be collected at the Friendship Hall. Your dorm is 403… Ah, do you know the Friendship Hall?” Mo Shanshan, in charge of receiving the new students, had a bit of trouble controlling her words. She stared at the boy, who had his head lowered and filling up the form, unable to drag her eyes away. “Would you like me to take you there?”
Ji Qinyang looked up. His features were handsome and delicate, and his silver ear stud glittered brightly in the sun.
“No need, xuejie1,” The boy smiled. “I know the way.”
Mo Shanshan’s mouth fell open. She had been stunned by his smile, and her brain was completely blank for a second.
Ji Qinyang completed the form, then went alone to the Friendship Hall after collecting the key to his dorm.
Along the way, recruiting leaflets for various clubs were constantly shoved into his hands.
After collecting the requisites, Ji Qinyang went to the dorm. As he was early, he was the only one there. Once he was nearly done packing everything away, someone entered.
“Oh, there’s someone here already.” The person had a strong Beijing accent, and he did not have a shirt on. With bare arms, he greeted cheerily, “Hi, my last name is Guo, the same Guo as Consort Yi of the Gorolo clan. I’m Guo Lin’an.”
Ji Qinyang laughed, reaching out and shaking his hand. “I’m Ji Qinyang, the same Ji as Ji Xianlin.”
Guo Lin’an hurriedly said, “Nice, we’re both descendants of famous people. What a destiny.”
With familiarity, he chose the bunk above Ji Qinyang, opening his bags and digging out a clean T-shirt to wear as he chattered non-stop. “Hey, handsome. Where are you from?”
“Jiangsu’s Suzhou.” Ji Qinyang confirmed that his things had been tidied up before locking the cabinet.
Guo Lin’an jumped down from his bunk, speaking enthusiastically. “Suzhou? That’s a good place. A good environment nurtures talented people, a place propitious for giving birth to great men. It’s full of beautiful women there, right?”
Ji Qinyang raised a brow. “There’s no lack of them in Beijing too.”
Guo Lin’an gave a thumbs up. “This bro is too good with his words!”
Ji Qinyang laughed and replied, “You’re quite chatty yourself.”
Guo Lin’an asked him, “Shall we eat together later?”
“Not today,” Ji Qinyang picked up his wallet and phone. “I’ve an appointment with someone.”
Walking out of the school, Ji Qinyang found the South Fuxing Station. As he texted, he waited for the special line 4. Getting onto the bus, after 13 stops, then walking for 270 metres did he finally find Renmin University.
Today was also the day when the freshmen would report. He walked into the school, and was once again given a pile of recruiting leaflets.
“Where are you?” Holding his phone, Ji Qinyang looked around. His height and face were too striking, and people near and far all looked at him.
“Mingde Square.” Xie Meng’s side was a little noisy. It seemed like someone was introducing something next to him, and he said, “Hold on.”
Ji Qinyang listened as Xie Meng refused politely. “I don’t know how to dance… I’m not good at singing too… I’m sorry…”
“Brisk business?” Ji Qinyang laughed and teased him. “Just stay where you are, I’ll come look for you.”
Xie Meng laughed too, “As though it’s not the same for you… Wait, I see you.”
Ji Qinyang turned back to see Xie Meng walking towards him.
The boy seemed to have just perspired, and part of his fringe clung to his forehead. When Xie Meng neared him, Ji Qinyang could not help but reach out and tugged his hair.
“…” Xie Meng simply brushed his hair backwards, muttering, “It’s grown out… Time to cut my hair.”
Xie Meng thought about it, “Sure.”
Ji Qinyang smiled, and hugged his shoulders without a care.
As they studied the subway in Beijing while chatting, Ji Qinyang asked after Xie Meng’s dorm.
“I was alone when I left,” Xie Meng looked carefully at the lines on the map. “I was early, so I didn’t see anyone from my dorm.”
He looked at Ji Qinyang. “You?”
“I met a local. He’s quite chatty, and seems pretty interesting.”
“People in Beijing seems to be quite talkative.”
“Mn. Southerners are too reserved.” Ji Qinyang found the nearby barber shop he looked up on his phone, then took Xie Meng’s ID card to buy the subway tickets. “This is good. You can just say what you’re thinking about, there’s no need to keep it within you.”
Xie Meng acknowledged it with no rebuttal. They both got onto the subway. As there were many people in the carriage, the two openly stood very close to each other. Leaning against the wall, Ji Qinyang was almost embracing Xie Meng.
When they were about to reach the barber shop, they received a call from Zhang Ganggang.
“This is my new number!” Zhang Ganggang’s voice sounded very energetic on the phone. “Hurry up! Save it!”
“Alright, alright.” Xie Meng promised to save his number, then asked Ji Qinyang, “Have your school given them to you?”
“Yes, but I haven’t swapped to it. I’ll tell you later.”
Zhang Ganggang was surprised. “Top beauty is next to you? Why didn’t you call me out to play too?”
“… I’m just going to cut my hair.”
“You still have to call me!” Zhang Ganggang was angry. “My school is so far away… wuwuwuwuwu… But there are many pretty girls from the International Studies University next door…”
Xie Meng, “…”
After sending their coordinates to Zhang Ganggang, Xie Meng asked the barber to trim his fringe. Ji Qinyang sat by the side, seemingly considering to do something about his hair as well.
“I think I’ll dye my hair.” Pointing at his head, he asked Xie Meng, “What colour do you like?”
Xie Meng considered it, then answered with some trouble. “It feels like everything suits you…”
With a good mood, Ji Qinyang smiled, “But you still need to choose one.”
The barber standing behind them was amused as well, and he suggested, “What about an ash tone? Your skin is fair, and your hair is naturally loose and light. This colour will definitely look very nice.”
Ji Qinyang did not speak. He seemed to have decided to let Xie Meng make the choice. The latter was not sure. He looked at many photos, then after comparing them for some time, he finally decided. “Let’s go with this then… What about your hairstyle?”
The barber looked in the mirror. “Any hairstyle will do, the structure of your friend’s face is really too perfect.”
Xie Meng finally picked a style that will reveal his forehead for Ji Qinyang. His fringe was swept towards the back, a little ruffled and tasteful looking. When everything was done, even the stylist could not help but bring the camera over, taking a photo with Ji Qinyang.
“Will I get any advertising fees?” Ji Qinyang joked. He patted away the stray hair on his clothes, tilting his head as he looked at Xie Meng. “Does it look good?”
Xie Meng sighed, “It looks too good. I’m a little regretful choosing this style for you.”
Ji Qinyang cocked a brow. When no one was paying attention to them, he leaned into Xie Meng’s ears and whispered, “Then hide me away. I’m more than willing to have that happen.”
Xie Meng let out a laugh, helplessly ruffling the boy’s styled hair.
Zhang Ganggang lost his wits when he saw Ji Qinyang. Mulling over it for a long while, he finally said something profound. “As expected, the hairstyle is not what’s important. Being good looking is still king.”
“King your ass.” Ji Qinyang flicked his forehead unceremoniously.
After eating, the three of them headed to the supermarket. Xie Meng bought some necessities, and when making the payment, he saw Ji Qinyang selecting some lip balm at the counter.
“Why are you looking at that?” He leaned over and discovered that the boy had also purchased hand cream and moisturizer.
“I got them for you. You’ve only just arrived, so you’re probably not used to needing them.”
Xie Meng stared at the lip balm. “I need to apply this too?”
“Yup.” Ji Qinyang paid, removing the packaging and unscrewing the cap. “Open your mouth, ahh—”
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang applied it for him, then wiped the excess from the corner of his lips with the tip of his finger as he indicated Xie Meng to close his mouth.
“…” Xie Meng, “It feels weird.”
Ji Qinyang laughed, “It’ll be fine once you get used to it.”
He helped Xie Meng put the lip balm and hand cream away, and when he was done, he found that Xie Meng was still looking at him.
“Why aren’t you applying any?” Xie Meng asked.
Ji Qinyang raised a brow. He lifted up the shopping bag to block their faces, then swiftly lowered his head and kissed Xie Meng.
Xie Meng, “…”
Ji Qinyang, “Now I’ve applied it.”
Just like usual, Zhang Ganggang bought a pile of snacks and instant noodles. When he saw the lip balm in Xie Meng’s hand, he was not at all astonished. “Oh, this? Young Master Han bought them all for me already.”
“Han Dong?” Xie Meng was puzzled. “You’ve met him already?”
Zhang Ganggang pursed his lips. “It was him who sent me to my school for reporting. Ugh, rich people, just arriving at Beijing and he already has a car… You know, the roads here are so packed. Tsk, it’s really a big city.”
Xie Meng, “…”
Zhang Ganggang continued gleefully, “We have a car now if we want to explore Beijing. Like that Sanlitun, Zhongguancun, and Wudaokou?”
“Don’t even think about it,” Ji Qinyang burst his dreams. “The traffic in those places are even worse. We won’t be able to play if we drive, all we’ll do is sit on the roof of the car and admire the scenery.”
Zhang Ganggang’s school was further away. Once they were done with dinner, he had to go first. Ji Qinyang sent Xie Meng back to his school, and the two of them strolled within the campus for a while.
“I’ll accompany you to your dorm.” Ji Qinyang caught hold of Xie Meng’s hand, swinging it. “Once I know the way, I can go look for you directly.”
Xie Meng smiled, “I’ll just go look for you at Zhongyin next time.”
“Sure, Block 6, Room 403. You’re welcome to stay overnight.”
Xie Meng was speechless. “There has to be space for me to sleep in the first place.”
Ji Qinyang did not speak. He acted, throwing a qinna move. Xie Meng reacted very quickly, turning his hands and pushing back. The two of them exchanged over ten moves, and neither was able to win the other.
“Your progress is really very fast,” Xie Meng exclaimed. “In a while more, I’ll probably not be able to beat you.”
Ji Qinyang kneaded Xie Meng’s neck. “An accomplished disciple owes his thanks to his teacher.”
Xie Meng laughed as he shook his head, “A teacher can only lead the way, while it’s up to the student to practice.”
“How can I not work hard?” Ji Qinyang threw an arm over Xie Meng’s shoulders. In the faint darkness, he kissed Xie Meng’s temple. “After all, I’m your man.”
Ji Qinyang only returned to his dorm a couple minutes before the curfew. “Yo,” Guo Lin’an noticed him.
“You’re back from your date?” Guo Lin’an leaned halfway out from his bunk, and paused when he saw him. “Your new hairstyle has made you way too good looking.”
Ji Qinyang smiled. He looked at the two new people in the dorm.
“Di Lin.” On the bed near the door, a boy introduced himself with a smile. “I’m from Chongqing, Sichuan. Where you from?”
Ji Qinyang was amused by his accent. “Suzhou.”
“That’s pretty close to me.” A boy on the bed furthest from the door came down, shaking hands with Ji Qinyang. “I’m Bai Xingtian, from Ningbo, Zhejiang.”
Ji Qinyang cocked a brow. “What a coincidence, I just went to Xiangshan for a vacation over the break.”
“It’s fun, right?” Bai Xingtian smiled somewhat proudly. “A coastal city, with the songs of fishermen in the dusk. Doesn’t it feel extra special?”
“Mn. It’s really a nice place,” Ji Qinyang responded.
Bai Xintian, “I live close by. Come over and play when you’re free, the seafood my mom cooks is the best.”
Ji Qinyang laughed and agreed. They chatted for some time before Ji Qinyang went to shower. When he returned, he noticed his water bottle had been filled up.
There were all sorts of snacks on the table. Ji Qinyang even saw a jar that looked like it contained pickled vegetables.
Di Lin got up to drink water, explaining, “My mom made that. It’s so delicious that it’ll make your tongue fall out.”
“Thanks,” Ji Qinyang raised the jar in his hand. He returned to his bed and saw Guo Lin’an grinning at him.
“What?” Ji Qinyang shut his eyes lazily as he lay on his arm. “What time are we reporting to the training base tomorrow?”
Bai Xintian, “We’ll gather at 6.30am, and it’ll be a day of exercise.”
Guo Lin’an continued, “How is it only just one day? It’s two full weeks of training training training training training.”
“You’re still missing one week of training,” Di Lin said seriously. “Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck2!”
Ji Qinyang, “…”
Guo Lin’an laughed till he almost fell out of bed. “Hahahaha, how are you this funny?”
Di Lin blushed, responding a little gloomily. “Did I say something wrong?”
Bai Xintian, “Hahahahaha!3”
All four were now wide awake with laughter. Guo Lin’an sat up, cross-legged. “Come come, let’s talk about you, handsome boy, first.”
“What is there to talk about?” Amusement could be heard in Ji Qinyang’s voice. “Also, I’m not the only handsome one around.”
Bai Xintian agreed. “Di Lin is also very good looking. They say that Sichuan produces good looking people… Xiao Di, do you have a girlfriend?”
“In my dreams.” Di Lin was gloomy. “I look too delicate, and all the girls scorn me.”
Guo Lin’an started being cheeky again. “Come here, come here, Guo Guo won’t scorn you.”
Di Lin laughed, asking him to fuck off. After a moment, he continued, “Who has a girlfriend here?”
“I’m single,” Guo Lin’an raised his hand. “My name is Forever Alone.”
Before Ji Qinyang could speak, Guo Lin’an shouted. “Handsome boy, I know you have a girlfriend. If you’re going to show it off, you’re not allowed to say anything!”
Ji Qinyang laughed, “Then there’s really nothing much to say.”
“What about Bai Xingtian?” Di Lin ignored the pained howls of Guo Lin’an. “I remember that there was a beautiful girl accompanying you when you just arrived here.”
“Mn.” Bai Xingtian did not deny it, admitting generously. “She’s my girlfriend, and she got into the Central Academy of Drama this year.”
Ji Qinyang , “You’ve been together since high school?”
Bai Xingtian smiled, “Yes. We both agreed to apply to the arts schools together, and that if we meet with any difficulties, we’ll hold on together. It won’t been easy, but we both love each other very much.”
Guo Lin’an hugged his head as he rolled about on the bed. “Are you guys abusing singles here… Can we even play happily together now?! I also want someone to accompany me and strive together!”
Di Lin roared, “What are you being long-winded about?! I’ve already been scorned for three years already! I’m single too!””
Bai Xingtian turned and asked Ji Qinyang. “What about you? Did you guys started dating in high school too?”
“Mn.” Ji Qinyang smiled in the dark. “But he’s smarter than me, he got into Renmin University.4”
Bai Xingtian, “It’s already very lucky that you guys are in the same city. “I had quite a number of couples in my class who broke up after the college entrance examination.”
Ji Qinyang did not speak, raising his arm to cover his forehead. Di Lin and Guo Lin’an were still making a fuss, and after listening to them for a while, he took his phone out and held it in front of him.
Xie Meng had sent a text a minute ago. “I’m unable to fall asleep yet… The entire dorm is very excited. You?”
“It’s the same here,” Ji Qinyang replied. “When do you start your military training?”
“They said it’ll be on the second day of the month, and we’ll be going to Shenghua Talent Training Center.”
“That means we won’t be able to see each other for half a month. I’m going to miss you so much.”
“…” Xie Meng sent a line of ellipses.
Ji Qinyang could not help but burst out laughing. Through the mosquito net, Bai Xingtian shook his bed. “You’re chatting with your girlfriend?”
“Mn.” Ji Qinyang sent his text, then opened his eyes and looked at Bai Xingtian with the help of the light from his phone. “You’re not texting your girlfriend?”
Bai Xingtian, “We’re no longer that sticky with each other after being together for three years. However, I still have to call her every day.”
Di Lin exploded. “Fuck this shit, you’re all not sleeping but here abusing us singles instead. If you’re going to continue, I’m going to start barking5!
Guo Lin’an, “Woof woof woof woof!”
Di Lin, “…”