After the mid-term exams, the weather quickly cooled down. Xie Meng woke up at 6am to prepare some milk for his grandmother. While waiting for the water to boil, he practised a set of Sanshou. As he was going through the last motions, a palm suddenly entered his vision. Xie Meng retreated a few steps, then responded to his opponent, and within one or two minutes, they had exchanged over ten blows.
“Watch your legs!” Zhang Luojuan was short, and her feet were nimble and accurate. Xie Meng bent his knees, avoiding the attack before he steadied himself.
“Grandma.” Xie Meng was resigned. “How many times have I told you not to use your feet? You’re too old for this.”
Zhang Luojuan was dressed in a martial arts outfit. She clearly had just returned from her practice, with her white hair and youthful face, she looked fresh and bright.
“Why?” Zhang Luojuan shot a look at her grandson and smiled, “Are you looking down on an old lady’s feet? You think they’re not deft enough?”
Xie Meng facepalmed, “… You know I don’t mean it that way.”
Zhang Luojuan snorted. “Your master was taught by me.”
“Yes yes yes.” Xie Meng returned to the kitchen to prepare the milk, and even from a distance he did not forget to coax the old lady. “Not only are you my good grandmother, you’re also my grandmaster, alright?”
Zhang Luojuan was amused by the teasing, and laughingly scolded Xie Meng.
The scores of the mid-term exams were posted on the blackboard, and only the top twenty students could be seen on the list, and all subjects were listed as well. Xie Meng ranked first in the list, and unexpectedly, Ji Qinyang was within the top five too.
Although his scores in the four science subjects were horrendous, but they could not distract from how his scores in the other five subjects were close to perfect.
The name Ji Qinyang was no different from the other names on the list, but it seemed to be gold-plated, and glittered in the midst of words.
Zhang Ganggang looked at it with some jealousy. “His biasness for subjects can even be so high-profile…”
Xie Meng did not say a word. As he patted at Zhang Ganggang’s head, he turned to see Ji Qinyang leaning against the classroom door looking at him.
The boy seemed to have grown taller, his dazzling features looked delicate, and he had a lazy faint smile on his face.
After their eyes met, Xie Meng lowered his head, and looked away without a trace.
Qi Fei was late, and when he saw Ji Qinyang he casually asked him, “How come you’ve been so early recently?”
“I came with someone.” Ji Qinyang yawned, his tone indifferent. Unconsciously, he looked towards the row in front. Xie Meng was dressed in a khaki woollen coat, and his black hair was a little long, covering half of his pale neck. The boy seemed to be very scared of the cold, he pulled down his sleeves to cover his hands, only exposing his fingers that were holding a pen.
Qi Fei looked towards the direction at where he was staring. “What are you looking at, what’s wrong with Xie Meng?”
Ji Qinyang lifted his chin. “He’s pretty tall.”
“Is he?” Qi Fei was very doubtful. He suddenly cupped his hand around his mouth and whispered, “Xie Meng—”
Xie Meng took awhile before he finally turned his head back. He first looked at Ji Qinyang, then turned his eyes towards Qi Fei with a questioning look.
The teacher had already arrived, so Qi Fei did not dare to speak loudly. He continued whispering audibly, “What’s — your — height?”
Xie Meng frowned slightly, and seemed to be processing Qi Fei’s question.
Afraid that he did not understand, Qi Fei gestured at his head, signalling their heights.
“…” Xie Meng showed three numbers using his hand.
As his actions were too fast, Qi Fei did not see it clearly. Just as he wanted to ask him to repeat them, he saw Ji Qinyang suddenly pointing at himself.
Xie Meng raised his brow. His eyes brightened, and he made a basketball shot gesture.
Xie Meng raised his eyebrows. His eyes were bright and he made a shooting position: “…”
Ji Qinyang nodded, and crooked his index finger showing a hooking action.
Xie Meng hesitated, but still waved his hand. The teacher just happened to look over in their direction, and Xie Meng could only turn back.
Ji Qinyang clicked his tongue, a little unhappy.
Qi Fei, “…”
“What on earth were you talking about?!” He was frantic. “Why didn’t I understand a single bit of it?”
After that short episode accidental charades, the relationship between Xie Meng and Ji Qinyang also did not suddenly warm up. After all, the differences between their looks to their social circles were completely different. One played basketball after school, and the other did his homework after class. Each went his own way, the log bridge was still the log bridge, and the broad path still remained bustling every day.1
After one of their basketball games, Qi Fei saw the belle of Class Five waiting by the court.
“Huh.” Qi Fei passed the ball to Ji Qinyang. “When did you hook up with her?”
Ji Qinyang dribbled the ball past another player, shooting the ball, he comfortably got a three-point shot. Turning around to look by the side of the court, he laughed. “I’ve forgotten when.”
Qi Fei huffed, then he took a look around the court, but did not see Yin Luoxue.
Ji Qinyang knew who he was looking for, and gave him a shove, mocking him, “You just want to see some drama that badly?”
Qi Fei obediently gestured to zip his mouth shut. He had been buddies with Ji Qinyang for so many years, he knew that although he usually looked as though he had a good temper, but if his bottom line was touched, he could torture the person to death.
The belle of Class Five was called Sun Tian. Unlike Yin Luoxue’s mature and adult manner, she was as sweet and lovely as her name.2
As soon as Ji Qinyang was done playing, she dutifully handed him a bottle of water.
“Thanks.” Ji Qinyang unscrewed the bottle with a smile. Picking up his school bag, he reached out with his arm, and placed it familiarly around the girl’s shoulders.
Sun Tian’s face was a little red. There were many girls on the sidelines watching Ji Qinyang, and many of their eyes fell onto Sun Tian.
“Today,” Sun Tian pretended to speak casually. “I happened across Yin Luoxue.”
“Mn.” Ji Qinyang’s expression was calm, and even his tone did not waver.
Sun Tian knew that he meant “I got it”, but she was still somewhat not resigned to that answer. “Are the both of you… still friends?”
Ji Qinyang looked down at her, replying coldly. “Probably not.”
Sun Tian finally smiled. She tilted her head cutely, “What do you dislike about her?”
“Hmm…” Ji Qinyang thought for a moment. “I like obedient people.”
He caught Sun Tian’s hand. “Just like you.”
When they were about to reach the school gate, Sun Tian suddenly discovered that she had left something behind in the classroom. Ji Qinyang told her that if it was not anything important, then just forget about it.
“It’s homework.” Sun Tian was vexed. She shooked Ji Qinyang’s arm coyly. “Can you come along with me to go get it?”
Ji Qinyang smiled. “It’s not very feasible for me to go to your class.”
Sun Tian pouted. After whining for a while, she saw that Ji Qinyang was not moved at all, and so reluctantly went back to look for it.
Idly, Ji Qinyang headed towards the gate with his hands in his pocket. With a few steps, he suddenly saw a familiar figure. His feet paused, and with their backs facing him, they clearly did not notice his presence.
“I don’t blame you.” The boy’s voice was a little helpless. “At that time, that situation… was really very awkward.”
Xie Meng never expected to be accosted by Lin Weixin at the school gate after school. He had not told a single of his middle school classmates that he was enrolled into W High, and he did not know how long it took for her to find him.
“Then why didn’t you go to S High?” Lin Weixin gradually became agitated, and even her eyes were red. “You’re still blaming me… blaming us. Your grades could clearly…”
“My grades really didn’t make it.” Xie Meng interrupted her. His voice was gentle yet cool, “I missed the acceptance score by one mark. It can be seen from the transcript, do you think I’ll lie to you?”
Lin Weixin remained silent. From Ji Qinyang’s angle, he could roughly see that the other person was hugging Xie Meng, and her intermittent sobbing was mingled with the boy’s gentle consolations.
Lin Weixin finally still had to leave. Staring at her back, Xie Meng sighed deeply. Turning around, he came across Ji Qinyang.
Ignoring Xie Meng’s surprise and nervousness, Ji Qinyang gave a carefree wave. “Hi.”
“…” Xie Meng’s mouth was open.
Ji Qinyang, “Your girlfriend?”
Xie Meng smiled wryly. “Not anymore.”
“Oh.” Ji Qinyang wanted to continue asking, but he heard Sun Tian shouting his name not too far away.
There was a moment where the boy’s expression seemed unhappy and frustrated about being interrupted. He stared at Xie Meng’s face, and his brows creased slightly.
This time, Xie Meng’s smile was real. He pointed behind Ji Qinyang, “Your girlfriend is calling out to you.”
Ji Qinyang sighed, unwilling to say much. “Mn.”
Xie Meng looked at him, and again smiled softly.
“Ji Qinyang.” He waved. “See you tomorrow.”
Xie Meng seldom smiled, not because he was a very serious person, but because he was used to it. Most of the time he was buried in his books or was doing his homework, looking very handsome, and behaved as though he was a silent quartz. However, he smiled twice at Ji Qinyang today, causing the latter to keep thinking about those smiles on the way home.
Just like the drifting snow lit up by the street lamp in winter, the entire world was black, and there was only that one patch of radiant white snow, cold, yet gentle.
When Lin Weixin came back again, Xie Meng realised that this person would not be easily dismissed. A little helpless, he looked at that girl standing by the school gate who refused to leave.
“The finals are coming. Don’t you need to study?”
Lin Weixin stubbornly said, “Study with me.”
“We’re in different schools, and our exam topics are different. Why should we study together?”
Lin Weixin remained silent. Xie Meng rested his forehead in his palm, and spoke up after a moment of silence. “You know what’s my reputation like amongst your classmates. Don’t be too close to me.”
“Those are just lies! Now, I know I was wrong, can’t you forgive me this time?!” Lin Weixin burst out suddenly. She sobbed, “You’re still blaming me… I was also very scared… My own boyfriend might be g—”
Lin Weixin clamped her mouth tightly with her hands.
Expressionlessly, Xie Meng looked down at her. After a long pause, he slowly said, “You knew that I wasn’t. At that time, you could have stood up to prove it, but you didn’t.”
Lin Weixin shook her head desperately. She wanted to reach out and grab Xie Meng’s sleeve, but the boy avoided it.
“You’re just like them.” Xie Meng said dispassionately. “You’ll rather believe those few photos, than believe me.”
The first thing Zhang Ganggang did when he returned home was to turn on his computer. After logging in to QQ, he then took out his homework and started working on it. Today, the S High’s group conversation was very lively. Zhang Ganggang did not care at first, until he saw a familiar name.
“Xie Meng? That Xie Meng?”
[Experimental Class – Li]: Wasn’t he very famous in middle school? Even the high school knew about it. He seemed to be in a relationship with a male teacher?
[Experimental Class – S]: I know about him too. At that time he was well known in the school’s BBS. He was the beau of the middle school, and his grades were excellent.
[Graduating Class – A]: It’s true that he’s handsome, and as for his grades… With his relationship with a male teacher, he must have gotten the examination answers before hand. If he was really that excellent, he wouldn’t have done so badly during the high school entrance examination.
Zhang Ganggang’s initial surprise turned to rage, and when he saw the last sentence, his face flushed with anger. Tossing his homework aside, he typed at his keyboard with all his might. “Xie Meng would never do such a thing like getting the examination answers! He’s so outstanding! Without getting any answers, he can still score very well!”
[Graduating Class – A]: … Who are you? It’s as if you know him very well.
Zhang Ganggang: I’m his friend! I’m with him every day! You all don’t even understand him, how can you say such nonsense behind his back!
[Experimental Class – S]: Tsk tsk tsk see this, he’s with a homosexual everyday~ I remember that he’s in W High now, you said that you’re with him daily, doesn’t that mean that you’re from W High?
Zhang Ganggang froze in front of his computer.
[Graduating Class – A]: @administrator How come people from W High can enter the S High group conversation? Can we stop letting all these random people join us?
Zhang Ganggang did not continue looking at it. He directly logged out of QQ, shut down his computer, and climbed onto his bed without even changing his clothes. Wrapping himself up in his blanket, he was still angry, and even more aggrieved. However, he did not know if he was feeling that way for Xie Meng or for himself.
When his phone notified him of an incoming text, Zhang Ganggang was still mired in injustice. He hesitated for a moment before reading the text.
Darling Rourou: I’ve seen the chat history, and kicked out those people already. It’s not your fault, don’t be angry.
Zhang Ganggang’s mood improved a little, and he replied: Can I give you a call?
After a long while, he finally received a reply: My parents are both at home… It’s not very convenient, sorry.
When his goddess apologised, Zhang Ganggang was immediately flustered, and was full of self-reproach: It’s my fault! My fault! You’re so outstanding your family must be very strict… I was the one who went too far QAQ
Darling Rourou: Don’t say that, you’re very good.
After a while, he received another text: I missed you very much today, did you miss me?
Zhang Ganggang blushed. After interacting with each other for so long, he always felt that Rourou, unlike the other girls, she was not as reserved. He was clearly the boyfriend, but the other party was a lot more proactive… Zhang Ganggang reflected silently. After he responded to the text, he climbed out from his blanket. Retrieving his hidden journal from his drawer, he conscientiously copied down the contents of the texts.
A few days before their finals, the first snow in winter fell upon Suzhou City. Maitreya was still going through the last few questions in their mock-exams, but several students sitting by the window started getting restless.
Wu Xiaomei was the first to shout. “Wow, the snow is super heavy!”
Maitreya did not get angry. “Fine, I know, I know! I’m about to be done! I’ll let you guys off to play soon!”
The students all laughed, and Xie Meng too could not help turning to look outside the window.
Beyond the dark blue curtain, snowflakes were falling through the air, landing on the holly trees outside the classroom.
Through the reflection of the glass window, Xie Meng saw Ji Qinyang, and their eyes met. In this rare occasion, the former did not look away, and the snow silently accumulated on the window sill. Eventually, the condensation on the window gradually blurred away their expressions.
- Log bridge and broad path comes from the chinese phrase, you’ll take the broad path, and I’ll cross the log bridge. It means that you’ll go your own way, and I’ll go mine.
- The Tian in Sun Tian (甜) means sweet.