After English class on Sunday morning, Tao Xi gently poked the arm of Lin Qinhe who was playing with his pen.
Lin Qinhe continued to touch the screen in his hand, without turning his head, his voice was cold: “What’s the matter?”
“I’m going to fetch water, do I need to bring it for you?” Tao Xi eagerly looked at the black water bottle with only half of water left on Lin Qinhe’s table.
“No need to.”
Tao Xi said “Oh”. Instead of fetching water, he took out a crumpled poster of the art club. He blinked his eyes, whispering as if he had obtained the college entrance examination results and then discussing with his parents which university to apply for: “I plan to go to the art club today.”
Because Lin Qinhe told him last week that he could join the art club so he wanted Lin Qinhe to know that he listened to him.
But Lin Qinhe’s voice was still cold: “It’s not my business?”
Tao Xi said “Oh” again, put away the poster and consciously shut up.
Since meeting Lin Qinhe at the entrance of the milk tea shop that day, he had tried so hard to speak with Lin Qinhe actively. Every morning he would diligently ask Lin Qinhe if he needed to help fetch water.
But Lin Qinhe was always so indifferent to answering questions as he did right now, he hadn’t even touched Lin Qinhe’s water bottle yet.
Was it possible that Lin Qinhe was afraid that he would poison his water?
Tao Xi self-examined for a long time, but he never figured out what he did that day, or why did Lin Qinhe be like this.
However, the moon could be cloudy and sunny and so, Lin Qinhe’s intermittent cloudy and sunny, lack of personality were also normal.
Tao Xi told himself like this.
After the last class, the students in the class took their school bag and rushed out. Tao Xi saw Lin Qinhe and Yang Duole go out with music scores. After hesitating in the classroom, he ran to Qiushi Building.
Holding the poster, he followed the address for a while and finally found the large studio of the art club on the second floor. There were about 30 people in it, mostly girls, who were already drawing on the drawing board.
Obviously, painting was a rare specialty of him. Tao Xi still felt nervous when he entered, he always felt as if he had broken into someone else’s territory.
He was looking for the person in charge of the club, but he ran into two “acquaintances” on a narrow road1The saying: enemy meets on narrow road.
“Tao Xi, are you coming to the art club too? Are you looking for Xinyun?” Zhang Mengtong held a paintbrush and smiled while speaking and gave Jiang Xinyun a look.
Jiang Xinyun was wearing her pink apron, looked up at Tao Xi, then glared at Zhang Mengtong, but the corner of her mouth was smiling.
Tao Xi couldn’t help but admire these two people a little. He felt that he could be regarded as a a good performer and he didn’t expect there were someone better than him2人外有人 (lit. there are people beyond the person): it’s from Chinese proverb 人外有人，天外有天 (lit. There are people beyond (this) person, and skies beyond (this) sky), which means no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone out there that is better. (cr: wordsense).
If he hadn’t heard their conversation in the milk tea shop, he would definitely feel that they were very friendly to him now.
He smiled lightly and said, “I heard Lin Qinhe say that this place is good, so I come to have a look, but now I don’t have much interest.”
After speaking, he turned and left without seeing the very ugly faces of the two people behind him.
Tao Xi was not going to join the art club, and found a good reason for himself. He didn’t want to spend money on painting tools.
Just a few steps out of the door, he was stopped by a tall girl: “Don’t go, Tao xue di3Xue di = male junior brother. There will be a lack of talent in our club if you leave.”
Tao Xi was taken aback. The girl whom he didn’t know, was tall, only a little shorter than him. She tied a long curly hair with a purple ribbon, her bright eyes were full of smiles. She continued: “I’m Qiao Yitang, the president of the Art Club, and I’m in the third grade. I heard from the little fat man Pan Yan about you, so I’m just waiting for you to come to our club.”
Tao Xi was a little puzzled. He had never told Pan Yan that he wanted to join the art club. He nodded and said, “Xue jie4Xue jie = senior sister. Since I’m using xue di, I’ll be using xue jie instead of senior, for the sake of consistencies, but I don’t really want to join the club anymore.”
“Why?” Qiao Yitang was very puzzled and anxious, “Don’t you like painting?”
Tao Xi found this person more and more weird, so he said frankly: “I don’t have tools for painting.”
“What’s wrong with this? Won’t the president gave you a set of tools?” Qiao Yitang breathed a sigh of relief when she heard the words, and without particular attention, led Tao Xi into the studio. The students who were painting inside respectfully shouted hello to the president. They looked at Tao Xi in amazement. Only Jiang Xinyun and Zhang Mengtong had complex expressions.
With enthusiasm, Qiao Yitang gave Tao Xi a new drawing board and a set of brand-new brushes and paints. She said that it was publicly owned by the club and did not leave him any room for rejection.
Tao Xi was pressed to the drawing board like a chicken and began to draw. Qiao Yitang finally let him go before instructing a boy to “take good care of Tao xue di”. She then took her cell phone out of the studio, as if she was going to call someone.
The boy introduced himself as Gao Yang, a student in the second-year art class. He spoke to Tao Xi with a little envy: “How do you know our president? She is too enthusiastic about you too.”
Tao Xi thought, I didn’t know, so he replied: “Maybe my roommate Pan Yan told her about me.”
Gao Yang whispered: “Pan Yan? How can he reach the principal’s daughter, ba.”
He thought that Tao Xi was not interested in this topic and deliberately lied to him, so he turned around to paint himself, ignoring Tao Xi.
The studio was quiet, Tao Xi also had begun to paint. Qiao Yitang gave him very good brushes and paints. This was the first time he could paint in such a formal way without borrowing other people’s tools.
When he was seriously painting, he would be fully engaged. He didn’t notice that more and more people were standing behind him. Even President Qiao Yitang had come around.
The painting was a moon of a snowy night. An icy moon full with silvery white light on the snow-capped mountains. Obviously the lines were very simple but with the perfect colour, the snow and moonlight portrayed an unattainable lonely beauty.
Tao Xi realized that he was being watched again when he closed his pen. He saw Qiao Yitang looking at him with scorching eyes, like looking at some treasured species.
“Xue di, if you tell me you haven’t learned painting, I won’t let you go today.” Qiao Yitang threatened, but her tone was excited.
The other onlookers suddenly looked at Tao Xi nervously. If the newcomer in front of them really hadn’t learned painting before, then what did they pay for the painting lesson for so many years for?
Tao Xi nodded calmly and said, “It’s just for fun when I’m bored.”
Drawing for fun.
A few people couldn’t help but curse in low voice. They looked at Tao Xi with sour and solemn eyes. They thought Tao Xi was some kind of relative of the president.
Tao Xi couldn’t help but smiled, pretending to be really happy. When Lin Qinhe said ‘it’s not necessary’ to do correction on the wrong question, he was this happy too.
Qiao Yitang was not surprised. Painting was the same as music. Perhaps a hundred percent of diligence was not as good as the talent of others. She carefully looked at the painting and couldn’t help sighing: “Tao Xi, your style of painting is like a painting I have seen before.”
Tao Xi was startled slightly and hurriedly asked, “Whose is it?” He wondered if it was his mother, Fang Sui?
Qiao Yitang said, “It’s a friend of a friend of mine. It doesn’t seem to be his friend.” She shook her head, as if she didn’t want to say anything. “Forget it, my friend is stingy and tight, I just glanced at it once and didn’t see it clearly. Maybe I remembered it wrong.”
Tao Xi was a little disappointed. Fang Sui had been away for so many years and would not be friends with teenagers.
Gao Yang, who had been painting next to Tao Xi, was convinced after a long time. He pulled Tao Xi to ask for guidance in his painting. Tao Xi agreed and several of the members also joined in.
Qiao Yitang looked at the scene in front of her and was in a good mood. She turned around to look at other people’s paintings, but accidentally saw two girls who had not been involved in the onlooker just now looking at Tao Xi with complicated eyes.
Qiao Yitang squinted her eyes, still smiling, and then walked out of the studio.
The end of the club activities also meant that the school had ended. Tao Xi finally got rid of the enthusiastic people. After eating, he returned to the dormitory and found that Pan Yan hadn’t gone home, so he asked him about Qiao Yitang.
“What? The goddess and I said a total of two sentences, ‘xue jie, hello’ and ‘xue jie, goodbye’. How could I introduce her to other wild men?!”
The wild man: “…”
“Do you know that she is the youngest daughter of Principal Qiao, an art student and a third year xueba. It would be unfair for you to know such a goddess so easily!” Pan Yan struck his chest.
Tao Xi thought for a while but still didn’t figure out why Qiao Yitang would know him. After experiencing Jiang Xinyun’s antics, he was now very wary of the sudden goodwill shown by others.
Forget it, anyway, he would only see her on the club activity day.
Tao Xi went to school in the afternoon. He finally found a fairly new listening book with tape at the big bookstore in the city. After returning, he continued to study in the dormitory until midnight.
On Monday the next day, he came to the classroom as early as usual. There was still only one Huang Qing in the classroom. He said hello, Huang Qing nodded at him expressionlessly, and continued reading.
Tao Xi couldn’t help wondering if all people with top grades were silent. Then he would be quite willing to find the Sea Witch to exchange his voice for excellent results.
He also sat in his seat and began to write papers, and it didn’t take long for some people to enter the classroom.
Suddenly there was some noise in front of him. He didn’t care at first, until a girl’s voice said: “Could it be that someone in our class is stealing something?”
Tao Xi paused sensitively, but did not look up.
“Xinyun, think about it carefully, did you really drop your earphones at the school yesterday?” It was Jin Jing’s voice.
“I’m sure, I put the earphones in the drawer before going to Art Club meeting yesterday. I planned to get it back after I finished the painting, but then my mother called me to urge me, so I went straight home.” Jiang Xinyun said anxiously, accompanied by the sound of flipping stuffs in the drawer.
“I did see Xinyun putting the earphones in the drawer yesterday, and then I went to the Art Club with her.” Zhang Mengtong, who was sitting next to Jiang Xinyun, testified.
“Xinyun’s earphones are expensive, right? Her father brought her as a birthday present from the United States.” Chen Yachun added.
Tao Xi didn’t need to listen anymore. He was basically certain that this was a set-up, and he was certain that the earphone must be in his drawer now.
The Wenhua No. 1 High School was as free as wind. In order to protect the privacy of students, no surveillance was installed in the classrooms. The cameras used for live broadcast were only turned on during class, so there was no way to prove himself.
To be honest, he had seen this old-fashioned method many times, in middle school.
The broken middle school he studied in Qingshui County was notoriously messy. If you couldn’t stand a person, just stuff things in the person’s drawer. The next day, when you were framing them, everyone in your class would follow you to catch the thief. This person then would be completely isolated from then on.
He understood that it was because he had been treated this way, but his solution was rude, which was fighting.
Reckless play, as long as you were cruel to others and yourself, those people would be afraid.
Until he obtained teacher’s favour because of his grades. Coupled with his notoriety, gradually no one dared to bully him.
But Tao Xi never thought of encountering such a thing in Wenhua No. 1 High School. He thought everyone was as graceful as on the surface. He didn’t understand why Jiang Xinyun hated himself so much.
But he knew that he couldn’t provoke the people in Wenhua No. 1 High School, because no one would protect him.
He was not a student here, and this was big issue. This incident would only make him unable to stay altogether, and it would also put Qingshui No. 1 High School to shame.
It would make him roll out of Lin Qinhe’s world in embarrassment.
Tao Xi subconsciously glanced to the side. Fortunately, Lin Qinhe had always come very late. He didn’t want Lin Qinhe to see it.
“Why don’t we search the classroom before class?” Chen Yachun began to suggest.
“I don’t think we need to search the whole class. After all, there were very few people who stayed at school after school yesterday and most people don’t lack earphones.” Zhang Mengtong began to direct the scene.
Except for that one student in the class, who else would stay at school on Sunday? Who else was too poor to have earphones?
The answer was obvious.
“Don’t do this. Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if there is a misunderstanding in the end.” Jin Jing didn’t seem to know the plan of her little sisters, but she seemed to eventually understand it.
“Searching someone’s table is an invasion of privacy!” Huang Qing, who had not spoken, stood up and spoke, her voice was suppressing anger.
“Oh, I forgot. Isn’t it possible that it’s the first person to come to the classroom this morning?” Chen Yachun chuckled lightly.
“You!” Huang Qing was obviously not in the same rank with them.
Tao Xi heard the footsteps gradually coming in the back row, and soon he heard Jiang Xinyun smiling and asking him: “Tao Xi, did you see anyone who went to my seat yesterday?”
Tao Xi stopped writing and looked up at Jiang Xinyun. This girl was indeed a little pretty. The pair of eyes were obviously malicious but still looked delicate and pitiful.
“I’m not your tablemate, how would I know?” Tao Xi’s expression was calm, with a sarcasm in his eyes.
Jiang Xinyun looked gloomy for a moment, and Zhang Mengtong sneered on the side: “But you are the only one in our class who stayed at school, and everyone else went home.”
Jin Jing, who rushed over, glanced at Tao Xi, sighed and hesitated whether to speak or not. The other students in the classroom were all in their seats, quietly looking over here, none of them made a sound, and some were typing on their mobile phones. It was guessed to be passing the gossip.
“I heard last time that the head teacher gave you a key to the classroom so that you can study on the weekend?” Chen Yachun said with a clear hint.
Zhou Qiang did give Tao Xi a key, but Tao Xi usually studied in the dormitory on Sundays and barely used it.
“Tao Xi, you see, this earphones are very important to me. I really don’t want to lose it.” Jiang Xinyun frowned slightly, her voice was soft, as if embarrassed.
Tao Xi looked up at Jiang Xinyun, and was about to sneer when he suddenly heard a cold voice:
“You’d better think about it, whether the earphones are really lost.”
The few people in the back row suddenly looked towards the back door.
Only Tao Xi didn’t move, his heart sank quickly, and all the composure calmly collapsed almost instantaneously. He pinched his nails tightly into his palms until they felt painful.
He didn’t dare to turn his head to look at the person who was approaching, but his ears became extremely sensitive. He heard Lin Qinhe pulled the chair away as usual, but the sound of metal engraving on the floor was much sharper than usual.
Tao Xi didn’t dare to breathe hard, the calmness when he confront Jiang Xinyun just now disappeared completely. He folded his neck and lowered his eyes, embarrassed like an ostrich with his head buried in the sand.
With a “bang”, a black water bottle full of water was suddenly snapped on the table with his head buried, and then the usual cold voice sounded: “Go and fetch me water.”
Tao Xi’s stiff body trembled subconsciously. After being dumb for two seconds, he stood up and took Lin Qinhe’s water bottle in both hands and walked to the drinking room. His fingers trembled a little, and he could only control it by holding the black water bottle tightly.
The classroom was very quiet. He could hear all the movement behind in the drinking room.
Jin Jing broke the stagnant atmosphere and took the initiative to explain to Lin Qinhe: “Xinyun said that the earphones were dropped in the classroom yesterday, but she couldn’t find it today, so she asked Tao Xi if he saw it. This may be a bit of a misunderstanding.”
She had already guessed that Jiang Xinyun was responsible for this incident, but Jiang Xinyun was her friend after all, and she wanted to give Jiang Xinyun a step down.
But Lin Qinhe didn’t respond to her. He leaned on the back of the chair in a relaxed posture, placed one hand on the desk, tapped the table with his slender index finger and looked up at Jiang Xinyun slightly. His voice was not warm at all:
“I’ll ask you again, is it really lost?”
Jiang Xinyun’s face was pale, and she took a half step back subconsciously. It was obvious that Lin Qinhe was sitting and looking at her with an upward gaze. It was clear that his expression and his eyes were calm, but she felt a strong oppression, as if, if she just nodded and said ‘yes’, that gaze would actually turn into a sharp weapon to pierce her.
Chen Yachun and Zhang Mengtong obviously didn’t expect this to happen. They looked at each other and were a little flustered. Chen Yachun’s face was even paler. She seemed to suddenly understand why Lin Qinhe had disgust in his eyes when he looked at her in the milk tea shop that day.
Jiang Xinyun squeezed her hand tightly. She didn’t know why Lin Qinhe, who had always come after the bell rang, would suddenly arrive early, and she couldn’t figure out why he wanted to take care of the accident, but she knew she couldn’t offend Lin Qinhe. She didn’t dare to look at Lin Qinhe’s eyes again, so she lowered her gaze and said:
“I… I might have left it at home. I’ll go back to look for it at night.”
Zhang Mengtong also hurriedly said: “Yes, I may have remembered it wrong yesterday. Xinyun, you may have really brought the earphones back.”
Jiang Xinyun paused when she heard the sound of fingers tapping the desktop suddenly becoming heavier. Her heart shrank, and she looked at Lin Qinhe subconsciously, but saw Lin Qinhe lift the corners of his lips slightly. He still looked at her with a very slight smile but the voice was extremely cold:
“Then I hope you can find it.”
Jiang Xinyun tried to press the horror that surged in her heart, forced an ugly smile, and whispered: “Thank you, I must look for it carefully when I go back.”
She really didn’t want to stay here for another second, but Lin Qinhe still did not let her go. He stretched out his hand and pulled the slightly skewed desk to his side to align it, and then looked at her before slowly asking:
“What about after you find it?”
Jiang Xinyun was about to cry. There were still some people in the classroom who were silently watching the drama. She had never been so embarrassed before, but she still replied tremblingly, “I, I will apologize to Tao Xi.”
Chen Yachun, who had been working hard to reduce her sense of existence, thought that the interrogation was finally over, but suddenly saw Lin Qinhe look to her with sharp cold eyes.
She understood Lin Qinhe’s meaning almost instantly, clutching her fingers and said hurriedly: “I, I will also apologize to Tao Xi. Last time I lied to him to make him late, it was my fault.”
Zhang Mengtong didn’t dare to breathe, and apologized quickly.
The three of them watched with anxiety as Lin Qinhe finally retracted his sight, as if he was treating them as air again. He took out a heavy book from his schoolbag, and the cover seemed to be English listening, as well as a new cassette tape. He lowered his head and put it in his drawer.
Jin Jing hurriedly winked at Jiang Xinyun and the others and the three of them escaped and walked to their seat with cold sweat.
Jin Jing didn’t left yet. She patted her chest and breathed a sigh of relief. In her opinion, the matter should be solved perfectly, and she couldn’t help but sigh to Lin Qinhe: “Finally it’s okay! I was scared to death just now!”
She was really scared to death. She was scared by Lin Qinhe. She was in the same class as Lin Qinhe in junior high school but had you ever seen Lin Qinhe like this?
But when Lin Qinhe glanced at her coldly, and rhetorically asked, “Are you okay?”
Jin Jing was startled.
She felt that Lin Qinhe’s gaze looked the same as the one when he stared at Jiang Xinyun just now.
- 1The saying: enemy meets on narrow road
- 2人外有人 (lit. there are people beyond the person): it’s from Chinese proverb 人外有人，天外有天 (lit. There are people beyond (this) person, and skies beyond (this) sky), which means no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone out there that is better. (cr: wordsense)
- 3Xue di = male junior brother
- 4Xue jie = senior sister. Since I’m using xue di, I’ll be using xue jie instead of senior, for the sake of consistencies