After attending class for 10 days after the final exam, the school had finally ended. Because Taoxi Bay was far away from the county’s No. 1 High School, Tao Xi usually lived at school’s dorm and returned home once a month.
Taoxi Bay was the furthest village in Qingshui County. The scenery was beautiful but the land was poor. The green tea trees in the terraced fields reflected on each other. When the spring rain came, hundreds of peach blossoms on the banks of the Qingshui River in the mountains were full of mists, and the flowers bloom on the stream.
However, most local villagers didn’t have much leisure to admire the scenery and flowers. In recent years, the Internet had attracted some idlers who came to sketch and took pictures. Several wealthy farmers had opened farmhouses. With the completion of roads in the county, more and more guests came here.
Tao Xi’s family was on the mountain side by the Qingshui River. There was a small brick house with white walls and grey roof. His mother, Guo Ping and father, Tao Jian were both native villagers in Taoxi Bay. Tao Jian worked in other places all year round, and Guo Ping occasionally went to the village’s farmhouse and tea factory to do odd jobs during her free time. His younger sister Tao Le was thirteen years old and had just had the first day of summer vacation in middle school.
With sharp ears, Tao Le quickly ran out to meet Tao Xi when she heard the movement in the hallway, almost tripping over the fertilizer bag on the ground because of excitement.
When Tao Xi saw Tao Le coming out, he grabbed her by the arm and hurried to the room.
“Don’t come out, the sun is too hot today.” He put down his bag, closed the wooden door, turned and looked down at Tao Le’s face.
The little girl was a little fat and she wore a tight trousers. She had a shiny natural curly hair, and a pair of almond eyes that were smart and lively, but there was a large erythema like a butterfly on her face, spreading from the bridge of the nose to the left face.
Tao Le suffered from Systemic Lupus Erythematosus2Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. (cr: medlineplus) and had been taking medicine to maintain it.
“Ge, I heard from my classmates that you are the number one in the county this time! You are going to Wenhua City to study when school starts!” Tao Le was on vacation early, helping Guo Ping with some farm work at home and looking forward to Tao Xi’s return every day.
The news spread quickly, and it was estimated that Guo Ping knew about it too. It saved the effort to talk to her.
Tao Xi nodded, but there was no excitement on his face like when he first knew it. If it weren’t for Tao Le, he wouldn’t want to return to this house.
After sunset, the siblings took the dried tea leaves on the dojo. Later, when Guo Ping returned from the tea factory, Tao Xi was cooking in the kitchen.
She picked up the enamel cup on the chopping board, drank a few sips of herbal tea and walked to the kitchen. When she was young, Guo Ping was famous for her aggressive personality in Taoxi Bay. After ten or twenty years of wasteful time and years of hard work, her skin was dark and yellow and wrinkled, her once-beautiful apricot eyes were yellow and drooping, and her personality became reticent and silent.
Guo Ping looked at the son in front of her. He was born with fair skin. He grew up in the countryside for so many years and did a lot of farm work, but he was still white and clean, like those art students who came to Taoxi Bay from the city to paint and sketch.
“I heard Sister Zhang’s son say that you are going to study in Wenhua City next year?” Guo Ping sat on the stool next to the stove to face the fire. The tone was strange, didn’t sound like Tao Xi’s mother.
Tao Xi held the spatula and didn’t look at Guo Ping. He didn’t like the way Guo Ping looked at him. This always reminded him of his ridiculous fate behind this look.
“Wenhua No. 1 High School will support my living expenses. Every month, 1500. I will leave 800 for Lele to see doctor and buy medicinal products.” Tao Xi said with his eyes down, his tone was not fluctuating.
Guo Ping was silent and used tongs to clamp a piece of wood into the stove.
The irritability in Tao Xi’s heart suddenly surged like a stove filled with wood. What he hated most was Guo Ping’s seemingly tolerant silence, which made him couldn’t help but say something bad.
“Don’t worry, I will not go to your son and ruin his life. Wenhua City is so big, where would I look for him even if I want to find him?”
“I didn’t mean that.” Guo Ping said.
That’s what you mean.
Tao Xi sneered silently, but after that, he didn’t speak any more.
Tao Xi did not idle during the 30-day summer vacation. Except for some farm work, he took a fixed time every day to review the content taught by the teachers at Wenhua No. 1 High School. He also helped Tao Le with her homework. The little girl was a bit excluded in school and couldn’t study.
Whenever he had the chance, he would be the mannequin for the art students, and the pay was 100 yuan. Because the mouth was sweet and he was good-looking, the art students sometimes gave him some additional tips.
He would also be models for some photographers, but the fees would be much higher because these photographers liked to inquire about his family situation, on the pretext they wanted to record different lives. Tao Xi knew their psychology and made up some tragic stories according to what they liked, either the father was dead or the mother was gone.
Occasionally, he painted with art students, and they lent him their brushes so he painted generously.
“Wow, little brother3小弟弟 =xiao didi, you really haven’t learned how to paint? How can you paint better than what we have learned.” The girls from the academy of fine arts were painting landscapes individually, but now they all leaned to Tao Xi’s side to see his paintings.
The paintbrush in Tao Xi’s hand stopped, he really didn’t want them to see it because he painted Lin Qinhe.
In the painting, the young man in the white shirt was looking sideways and down. The peach blossoms outside the window were concealed by a bright moon.
He no longer knew which Lin Qinhe he had painted. He had a sketchbook in which every picture in it was Lin Qinhe, sitting or standing, reading or writing. In fact, the real Lin Qinhe he could see was very limited. These paintings were all the moon he imagined.
“So handsome, who is this person?” the girl exclaimed and asked.
Tao Xi smiled perfunctorily, thanked them after painting, and ran away with the painting.
In fact, he had liked painting since he was a child, and he was born with talent better than others. But Guo Ping once saw his paintings, and she went crazy that she stuffed all the paintings into the stove and burned them all. He was frightened that time and only dared to paint quietly after that.
Later, he finally understood why Guo Ping was so angry.
The summer vacation soon passed. Tao Xi left most of the two thousand yuan he earned to buy medicine for Tao Le, leaving only five hundred as extra expenses to go to Wenhua No. 1 High School.
At the end of August, Tao Xi packed up his luggage and prepared to set off. Tao Le insisted on sending him out. He stroke a handful of his sister’s natural rolls and flatly refused.
Tao Xi didn’t say a word to Guo Ping. He took the luggage and got on the bus to the Qingshui No. 1 High School. Several leaders and many teachers from the school came to see him off.
The teachers surrounded Tao Xi and exhorted like an old mother, as if sending the child to the battlefield, letting him go without too much pressure, saying that it was normal for him to be unable to keep up and advising him to adjust his mentality and get along well with teachers and classmates.
The Chinese teacher was an old man and had always liked Tao Xi. The old man stuffed a pack of home-made candies into Tao Xi’s arms and encouraged him: “My child, you are excellent, not worse than the students in Wenhua No. 1 High School. You are neither humble nor overbearing, so be a little more confident!”
Tao Xi nodded and said thank you. He had always liked to eat candies, but even if they had them at home, they gave it Tao Le. He knew that what the old man said about being neither humble nor overbearing was actually telling him not feel inferior.
But in fact, he had never experienced low self-esteem growing up. Even when he saw Lin Qinhe, he crazily wanted to get close to him, stood beside him, and became a good person like him instead of being ashamed.
Feng Yuan, who had not spoken all the time, said suddenly: “If you have a conflict with your classmates, don’t fight. There won’t necessarily be someone there to protect you.”
Tao Xi suddenly opened his eyes and looked at Feng Yuan.
You must know that he had never had a fight in Qingshui No. 1 High School. He had always been a good student, at least in front of the teacher.
Feng Yuan coughed and whispered: “Don’t worry about your sister, she will be transferred to Teacher Ding’s class immediately. No one will dare to bully her in the future.” His wife, Ding Fang was a Chinese teacher in the county junior high school and also a head teacher.
Tao Xi looked at Feng Yuan in silence for a while, and suddenly, he bowed very solemnly to all the teachers present and said thank you.
“I will definitely be the first student in Qingshui County to pass the exam.”
This time he was not perfunctory.
The teachers sent Tao Xi to the school gate. Feng Yuan took Tao Xi, and the two of them carried large and small luggage bags. They took a bus to the nearest prefecture-level city. They ate two buckets of instant noodles at the train station and waited until midnight to get on the high-speed rail. After sitting all night, they finally arrived at Wenhua City at noon the next day.
Tao Xi never went out that far and Feng Yuan also rarely went out. The two were very dizzy at the high-speed rail station for a while, and did not understand the bus and subway routes. Finally, Feng Yuan gritted his teeth and took a taxi to Wenhua No. 1 High School. Tao Xi wanted to pay the taxi fee, but Feng Yuan didn’t let him.
The moment Tao Xi got off the car and saw the gate of Wenhua No. 1 High School, Tao Xi felt that he was dreaming and his feet were a little soft.
A big and a small couple accompanied by a big luggage bag and a small luggage bag at the school gate were a little out of place and bleak. Feng Yuan was taken aback for a while before he took out his mobile phone and made a call while Tao Xi looked up at the gate of Wenhua No. 1 High School greedily.
A tall building with simple lines. The seven characters4in chinese, it’s seven characters: 文华市第一中学 of “Wenhua City No. 1 High School” were engraved on white marble. Looking past the automatic metal door, there was a wide asphalt road, with green leaves on both sides undulating with the sound of cicadas, concealing the crimson building at the end.
Tao Xi sighed in his heart, this had more style than the crumbling rust iron door in Qingshui No. 1 High School.
Soon a pudgy middle-aged male teacher walked quickly on that road. Tao Xi saw this teacher on the screen for nearly a year. He was Zhou Qiang, the head teacher and Mathematics teacher of the first class. He watched the hairline on the head recede with his own eyes.
The feeling of the people on the screen suddenly becoming alive was quite strange. Tao Xi squinted his eyes and raised the corners of his mouth to show a shy smile when Zhou Qiang came to him.
“Report! The first place in Qingshui County had come to our class! There are still 500 meters away from the classroom!”
In the early morning of the first day of school, a boy rushed from the corridor into the classroom at the end of the third floor of the Wenhua No. 1 High School. The students who bowed their heads all over the classroom hurriedly raised their heads.
“Xiao Fei, male or female?”
“Male!” The boy who reported the news was Bi Chengfei. He flew back to the desk to continue copying his English homework.
The boys suddenly let out a disappointed voice. Their class was already dying and declining, and they had originally imagined a beautiful and innocent farm girl.
“Handsome?” asked Jin Jing, the English class representative who was urging him to hand in the English homework and unselfishly pulled out the English homework book from Bi Chengfei, who was working hard.
“Wait! It’s almost the last one!” Bi Chengfei chased and wrote an option, and finally said with a sigh of relief: “I didn’t see it clearly, it seems to be quite thin and white.”
Jin Jing glanced at the empty seat behind Bi Chengfei and sighed.
Bi Chengfei knew who she was thinking about, so he said in a sour tone: “Even if it he’s handsome, can it be more handsome than Lin Xueshen?5Xueshen = Learning God“
Jin Jing rolled her eyes and said, “Just more handsome than you.”
Tao Xi, who was imagined as a farm girl, was wearing a new school uniform that he had fortunately done in the morning after washing it last night, and now he was following Zhou Qiang to the classroom.
After Feng Yuan sent him to the dormitory to settle down, he hurried back without stopping.
Because school hadn’t started, the roommates hadn’t come yet. Tao Xi slept in the four-person room all night and was taken to the cafeteria early in the morning by Zhou Qiang to have a free hearty breakfast.
Zhou Qiang had been tirelessly introducing the situation of the school and the class along the way, with the encouragement of “don’t be nervous”, “take it easy” and “you can” from time to time.
Tao Xi had always been a person who knew what to say in different situation6chinese idiom: 见人说人话，见鬼说鬼话 (jiàn rén shuō rén huà，jiàn guǐ shuō guǐ huà). Generally it means refers to the ability to respond when people speak and do things. (cr: chinesepod). At the beginning, he responded very cooperatively, but he couldn’t do it later.
He was very unaccustomed to others being too attentive to him, but finally understood why Zhou Qiang’s nickname was Auntie Zhou.
When passing by the hall on the first floor of the teaching building, Aunt Zhou, oh no, Zhou Qiang also took Tao Xi to stand in front of the tall glass curtain wall to admire the honor list.
“You see, there are a lot of students in our fClass 1 here and they will become your classmates in the future.” Zhou Qiang triumphantly scanned the photos and names of the students in his class. Under each photo, there was also an aphorism like “Learning without thinking is worthless, thinking without learning is perishable”.
Tao Xi saw Lin Qinhe’s photos at a glance. One was because he appeared most frequently, and the other was that he was the best-looking, but there was only a name under the photo. There were no sentences.
When Zhou Qiang saw Tao Xi staring at the photo in a daze, he secretly yelled. He thought that this student from the mountain felt inferior when he saw the outstanding classmates. He took a sharp turn and led him upstairs, before he said kindly: “The students in a class are lively, enthusiastic, humble and cheerful. You will definitely fit in well!”
This was the third time Tao Xi had listened to Zhou Qiang’s lively and enthusiastic.
Tao Xi raised the corner of his mouth and smiled, and said for the third time: “I will get along well with my classmates.”
Yes, he was still a little nervous at first, but he lost his emotions when Zhou Qiang did anything like this.
There was even a sense of relief when he walked to the door of the classroom.
A class of students was practicing English listening for English self-study class. The moment Zhou Qiang and Tao Xi walked in, they clicked the cassette and it disappeared.
Tao Xi instantly felt all the gazes fell on him. He had no intention of trying to figure out the meaning of these gazes, so he quickly glanced down the stage in the dense line of sight.
Tao Xi suppressed the doubts and disappointments in his heart, and after Zhou Qiang’s passionate opening remarks, he was asked to introduce himself to the class.
“Hello everyone, my name is Tao Xi and I come from Qingshui County No. 1 High School. I am very happy to come to Wenhua No. 1 High School to study.”
In fact, he had repeated countless self-introductions on the road, but now he suddenly lost his mood
Zhou Qiang was stunned, was it done?
Nothing more, kids nowadays loved to pretend to be cool, or maybe he was too nervous. Zhou Qiang thoughtfully gave Tao Xi a reason, pointed his finger at the last row of the classroom, and said kindly: “The last seat in the fifth row is yours. Yes, it was all tidied up yesterday.”
The whole class turned around and looked at the last row at the same time. There were two empty seats next to each other. One of them was added yesterday, and the other…
Tao Xi nodded. Just as he was about to step off the podium, a tall figure suddenly walked into the door of the classroom.
He subconsciously turned his head to look over, and was suddenly nailed to the place.
“Lin Qinhe, how come you are late on the first day of school!” Zhou Qiang said to the boy who walked in the door sadly, as if looking at his unfilial son who went astray.
The unfilial son was carrying a black schoolbag behind him, one hand casually hooked the schoolbag strap while the other hand was holding a bottle of iced mineral water. There was no expression on his stern face and he said indifferently: “There was a car accident on the road.”
Tao Xi sighed in his heart, but the expression on his face did not change. He looked at Lin Qinhe calmly.
No matter how clear the live screen was, it would inevitably be distorted. After seeing it, he found that his paintings still had many flaws and he didn’t make half of his pictures as good-looking at all.
Zhou Qiang looked terrified, apparently believing the nonsense, and scanned Lin Qinhe up and down, left and right. After confirming that he was okay, he showed a pleasing smile. He pulled Tao Xi and said to Lin Qinhe in the tone of a supermarket salesperson selling new products:
“It’s fine! But you just missed the new classmate’s self-introduction. Come, let me introduce you. This classmate is named Tao Xi, who is the first in Qingshui County! Do you think he can be your tablemate in the future?”
Zhou Qiang asked for an opinion, but in fact he had already put the desk next to Lin Qinhe before that. He was confident that Lin Qinhe would not refuse such trivial matters.
“Won’t do.” Lin Qinhe glanced at Tao Xi, his voice was without emotion.
The class fell silent abruptly.
The smile on the corner of Tao Xi’s mouth also froze.
- 1It’s something like this
- 2Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. In this disease, the immune system of the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. It can affect the skin, joints, kidneys, brain, and other organs. (cr: medlineplus)
- 3小弟弟 =xiao didi
- 4in chinese, it’s seven characters: 文华市第一中学
- 5Xueshen = Learning God
- 6chinese idiom: 见人说人话，见鬼说鬼话 (jiàn rén shuō rén huà，jiàn guǐ shuō guǐ huà). Generally it means refers to the ability to respond when people speak and do things. (cr: chinesepod)