Shi Wang and Lu Qingzhi were looking at him from the front, unable to see their faces, but he could feel them smiling, smiling so lovingly and gently. Their eyes fell on him, insubstantial, light and shallow.
Shi An looked down at his hand. The palms were very small and they belonged to a child. There was a small brown mole on the side of the index finger of his left hand.
It was also his hand.
Then he ran uncontrollably with his legs toward Shi Wang and Lu Qingzhi.
Shi Wang’s hand vainly held Lu Qingzhi’s waist. As Lu Qingzhi bent down her body, her long hair slipping off her shoulders and swinging gently in her ears. She pulled up her hair with one hand and opened her other hand towards Shi An. She seemed to be talking and smiling, she said, “Xiao An.”
She was calling him.
Surrounded by a hazy fog, he couldn’t see what was on the roadside, vaguely seeming to be the scenery of a small town. Shi An was very familiar with the streets, there were green trees on the side of the road and the sunshine was gentle and faint.
He ran towards Shi Wang and Lu Qingzhi. They kept this posture, as if waiting for Shi An to run over and jump into their arms.
Shi An ran as hard as he could, but the buildings on either side kept receding; he was clearly moving forward, but he couldn’t get any closer to those two.
He knew he was dreaming. This small child’s body was not enough to support him to run at such a fast pace. His feet were weak, the ground seemed soft, and he couldn’t find the focus. Yet, he was still running, and his chest seemed to be blocked with breath, so he couldn’t breathe.
He panted hard with his mouth and nose, the air filling his lungs, with a faint smell of flowers that he remembered from Lu Qingzhi’s arms.
Then Lu Qingzhi straightened up, and Shi Wang retracted his hand around her waist.
Lu Qingzhi didn’t seem to laugh anymore. Her eyes were cold as they fell on Shi An’s face. She sighed lightly, Xiao An, why are you so slow?
Shi An opened his eyes as his body seemed to suddenly fall. He couldn’t react to where he was for a moment. Relying on his instincts, he slightly raise his head before knocking it down hard. The tremendous pain brought about a transient ringing in his ears. He faintly heard himself smash out a loud sound, as well as the frightened cry of the people next to him.
The head hurt.
Good, he was awake.
Shi An adjusted a little messy breathing before turning his head to the side; he saw Shen Qiaoqiao covering her mouth looking at him.
The five senses gradually recovered and the noise in his ears became louder. He sat up straight and looked around. It was just after the lunch break so there was no class yet. Some people were wiping the blackboard on the podium, some were playing around, the table was skewed and twisted, and the sun was very dazzling. The class board diagonally placed by the door had a special luster of metal that stung his eyes slightly.
His body ached and his head was heavy, that his eyes glowed yellow when he looked at things. Even though he was sitting at his desk, he still felt tired, so tired he didn’t know what posture to sit.
Shi An often had this dream when he was a child, often waking up crying in his sleep and taking some time to get over it when he woke up.
Later, on a very ordinary day, he only remembered that it was a summer afternoon and cicadas cried hysterically. He woke up from his dream, the sun shining on his eyelids. He touched his face, he did not cry. He sat up and froze for a moment, feeling a strange feeling that he couldn’t understand.
Shi An got up and went downstairs. The store was air-conditioned and the small space was filled with the unique sweetness of the dessert shop. Grandma sat by the door, the sun shining through the glass door on her silver hair. Yan Liang sat next to her, not knowing what was said, making the old woman laugh.
There were few customers in the store, and lazy and slow English songs were playing on the stereo. Yan Liang turned his head to look at him, with thin creases in the corners of his eyes, and his pupils were so dark that they were shiny.
Shi An then realized that his heart seemed to be extraordinarily quiet, so quiet that he was at ease.
Later, the dream was seldom repeated, and it did not affect anything, but it was particularly tiring.
In this dream, he had to run all the time, wanting to stop, but he couldn’t stop. When the dream would sometimes loop the whole night, this could be an especially exhausting dream. Before, when he often had this dream, Shi An always wondered if it would help to improve his sports performance. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
At the end of November, the temperature had dropped a lot but the wind was not yet harsh, and the temperature was still comfortable. The annual sports festival in the Affiliated High School was about at this time.
At the opening ceremony of the Sports Festival, each class had to take a class card and go through the game once. Except for Class 3, all the other classes were symbolically trained for a few times; the main event was the competition.
Cheng Yuan, the head teacher of Class 3, was a young male teacher in his early thirties, with a pair of thin-framed glasses and delicate and gentle appearance. In fact, he was extremely energetic, and took all Class 3 to practice walking in the playground every day, rain or shine. He euphemistically called it a good opportunity to show the appearance of Class 3, saying that it was their first sports festival in high school, which was of great significance.
Class 3 practiced physical education every day after school, at least twenty or thirty laps at a time. The athletes were almost exhausted but Cheng Yuan still walked like flying.
When the temperature fluctuated more, Shi An was prone to illness. Thanks to Cheng Yuan’s blessing, the cold wind blew for a week. Before the sports festival, he caught a bad cold. It might be because he was not feeling well, and so had that exhausting dream at noon.
When he returned to Qingjiu Alley in the evening, Shi An was already half dead from exhaustion.
Everyone started to eat dinner, and someone came to visit with food, greeting Shi An loudly. The food was fragrant all over the alley.
When Shi An returned to the shop, the warm light immediately wrapped around him. Grandma and Ling Yue were both behind the counter, one standing and one sitting, as if discussing something. When they saw him returning, they raised their eyes and smiled, and he felt like coming back to earth.
Why else would they say that home was the warmest harbor?
Until Ling Yue came to him with a cup of milk tea full of stuffs and said, “Come and try the new taste grandma and I invented,” Shi An really thought so.
Shi An looked down at the large cup of milk tea; the black pearls were made in the shape of spiders lined up at the bottom of the cup. Although there was no expression on his face, he still got goosebumps.
“Isn’t it very creative? I’m telling you, this is not boba, this is popping boba. Every time I eat popping boba I feel the texture of the popping is particularly cool, so I made it into this shape, like the spider bite popping feeling?”
Shi An’s grandmother’s name was Jiang Yuan. The old woman with long eyebrows leaned back in her chair, smiling warmly as she said: “Xiao Yue is really extraordinarily thoughtful; it does feel that way when you eat it.”
Shi An: “…”
Please shut up.
Tomorrow was the sports festival and there was no homework in the evening. Shi An simply sat downstairs with a book to watch the shop. He sat in the innermost seat, holding Ling Yue’s boba milk…spider milk tea, and was forced to promote it.
The wind chimes hanging on the door of the store rang a few times, Shi An looked up and saw Yan Liang entering the door.
Yan Liang was wearing a thin sweater, his trousers were rolled up to reveal a thin ankle, slippers were on his feet, and as if he had just washed his hair, it was wet. He carried a set of test papers in one hand, holding a towel in the other to wipe his hair.
This kind of outfit did not look sloppy on him, but rather relaxed and natural.
Shi An actually liked the way Yan Liang casually walked into his shop, as if it was a normal and natural thing to do; this perception made Shi An very comfortable.
“Shi An,” Yan Liang smiled before he reached his seat. The warm light brushing against his eyelashes, dark and shiny. He stood in front of Shi An and lightly frowned: “Why do you look so pale?”
Shi An’s face had always had little blood. The color of his lips were very light, but it did not look sickly nor did it make people feel that he was in a depressed state, but rather fit with his pale look.
It might be that he was born with less melanin, Shi An’s hair color was lighter than most people, and his pupil color was also lighter, clear, and clean.
Shi An was Yan Liang’s friend who grew up playing with him. Such a big person was alive in front of him, but he didn’t know why; he often thought that Shi An was like a wisp of light and shallow smoke, which seemed to be scattered and gone with the wind, couldn’t be caught.
The other people who grew up together in Qingjiu Alley didn’t give Yan Liang this feeling.
Yan Liang lowered his eyes and looked at Shi An for a while before reaching out and lifted his forehead hair to test the temperature of his forehead. However, just after the bangs were lifted, he saw a bruise on his fair and clean forehead; It was particularly conspicuous.
The wound looked painful. Yan Liang only looked at it and the palm of his hand was physically sore. He could not help but softly hissed, bending down to take a closer look as he asked: “Shi An, what happened to your forehead? What’s wrong with it?”
Yan Liang leaned close and looked closely at Shi An’s forehead. His slender neck trembled with the voice. His voice had a grainy texture, and the tone was a little heavy, ringing in Shi An’s ears, feeling a bit itchy in the ears.
Yan Liang lifted Shi An’s chin slightly; the temperature of the fingertips was very high. Shi An leaned slightly on his side. The hands on the back of the chair slowly tightened, making his knuckles a little white.
Yan Liang looked at them for a while, then turned to his back to call Ling Yue. He saw Ling Yue sitting on the counter looking at them with her chin supported, her expression was a little strange.
Ling Yue’s facial features were not the softness that Jiangnan women often had. On the contrary, the eye sockets were slightly darker, and the pupils were also dark, which at first glance looked somewhat mysterious.
Ling Yue watched the excitement for a while, but when she saw something was wrong, she walked over and took a look. The expression on her face had returned to normal. She called out: “Damn, Shi An, where did you knock like this?”
Jiang Yuan had already gone upstairs to rest, but the old woman was always worried. When she was not there, Ling Yue generously went to the storage room and took a first aid kit out before she took a bottle of activating oil and a cotton ball.
She unscrewed the lid before her hand paused and glanced at Yan Liang who was standing next to her. She stuffed the medicine bottle and cotton ball into his hand instead while saying, “You can rub it for him. I have no class today so I’m in the store working for a whole day, my hands are sore.” Yan Liang directly reached out to take the medicine. After it was poured, he gently lifted Shi An’s bangs with one hand and rubbed the bruise with the other.
Yan Liang rubbed it very lightly, as if he was touching something fragile, and if he didn’t pay attention, it would break.
Shi An’s fingertips were closed on the back of the chair again, he couldn’t stop a little warmth in his heart. He had to close his eyes to stop his thoughts.
He reminded himself that Yan Liang was such a person. Even if the person who bruised his head today was not him, but someone else, another friend, an ordinary classmate, Yan Liang would not mind helping to put on medicine. He was used to being gentle, so no matter who it was, he would be very careful.
Thinking about this, Shi An’s grip on the back of the chair relaxed a little. He opened his eyes to feel Yan Liang’s movements.
“How can you apply medicine like this? How can such a light bruise melt away? You have to rub it out harder. Harder, understand?” Ling Yue also bent over and watched, giving on-site instructions.
“Don’t say anything, I’m nervous…how can I dare to press harder? It hurts to watch.” Yan Liang retorted nonchalantly, but his action became a little heavier.
“If you don’t press hard, it won’t work at all,” Ling Yue paused before she added, “If you can’t bear to use force, just say so.”
The knuckles that Shi An had just relaxed tightened again, and his heart jumped abruptly. He raised his ears uncontrollably to listen to Yan Liang’s answer.
Yan Liang’s mind was completely focused on the bruise on Shi An’s head. He split his mind and quarrelled with Ling Yue. He didn’t hesitate to say, “I just can’t bear it, what’s wrong? If you can, then do it, ah. Don’t affect me if you can’t do it.”
Ling Yue was satisfied. She pulled a chair to sit down and stopped talking.
What was the matter with couldn’t bear it
Just couldn’t bear it.
Couldn’t bear it.
Yan Liang said.
His childhood friend might have wanted him dead.
Shi An’s fingers tightened again, not knowing how many times he played this sentence back and forth in his mind. When Yan Liang straightened up and the warm-colored light hit his eyelids, only then did he come back to his senses.
“Did you just fall asleep?” Yan Liang watched as he opened his eyes wide and asked with a smile, “Was the strength really not enough?”
Shi An shook his head gently and reached out to straighten his bangs. The bruised area was so numb and hot that for a while, he couldn’t tell whether it was the wound or a feeling in his heart.
Yan Liang went to wash his hands before returning to his seat. Putting the towel that was used to wipe his hair casually on the back of his chair, he took a set of physics papers and said, “I want to come over to ask you about this…”
“Wait.” Ling Yue, who was sitting on the side, suddenly interrupted Yan Liang’s words and reached out to take the spider milk tea that Shi An had casually put aside and sent it to Yan Liang’s eyes: “Welcome to taste the new products of the store for free.”
Yan Liang didn’t eat dinner and was indeed a little hungry. Ling Yue was very thoughtful to him and inserted a straw.
His eyes were still fixed on the practice papers, as he took a big sip from Ling Yue’s hand, only to find out that it was popping boba, which seemed to be blueberry flavored. Although the boba was a bit strange in shape, it was quite tasty.
Yan Liang smacked his lips and said vaguely, “It’s quite tasty.”
Shi An took his pen, his movements were slightly stiff, not starting the question.
Yan Liang raised his eyes in confusion, and saw that the expression on Shi An’s face was rare and rich, with an indescribable appearance. He stared at the cup of milk tea for a long time and said: “…After all these years, I just found out you like something like this… “1你原来好这口: ‘I didn’t expect you to like this’, has a derogatory meaning to it.
Yan Liang lowered his eyes to see the bottom of the cup full of… eight-legged spiders, popping boba in the drink, and the taste of some thick pulp in the mouth diffused.
Yan Liang: “…”
After living for sixteen years, Yan Liang felt for the first time what it was like to be cold from the sky to the bottom of his feet.
“Fuck what the hell is this you don’t come over here ah ah ah!
Shi An: “…”
T/N: Hi everyone, I’ve decided I’ll release 2 extra chapters for this every time the goal on ko-fi is reached! Thank you!
- 1你原来好这口: ‘I didn’t expect you to like this’, has a derogatory meaning to it.