In the end, Qi Yan wins second place while the first place goes to School of Literature. At first, no one pays attention to the plain-looking boy, but during the last five laps, he and Qi Yan leave all other competitors behind by a great distance. Qi Yan is tall and his legs are long, his strides big, rhythmic and quite a pleasant sight to the eyes. The schoolmate is shorter than Qi Yan by a head, so he has a disadvantage in stride length but he wins in frequency. Running is about determination after all.
Song Fei holds on tight to his phone but his eyes actually never leave the field in the second half. He can see that Qi Yan has done his best, but he ends up losing out to his opponent by three strides as he crosses the finishing line.The broadcast congratulates School of Literature for being number one, followed by School of Life Sciences, then announces the names of athletes. Song Fei doesn’t catch anything because all his attention is on Qi Yan.
He stoops down and leans on his knees, unable to breathe. Song Fei knows he must be completely exhausted, but the final sprint is the one that has him reach his limit. If it was him, Song Fei thinks, he would have collapsed on the ground with a loud thump. Who cares anyway. But it’s Qi Yan, the one who always wants to keep his image. One has no idea if his extreme level of self-discipline is natural or acquired.
The finishing line is near Song Fei’s area. If Qi Yan looks over here, he definitely will lock eyes with Song Fei. Not to mention, Song Fei’s group is all clad in the same colour, so it will be difficult to not notice them. But from the beginning to the end, Qi Yan turns his back to this side and doesn’t even give it a glance until he leaves the field.
He might want to mock Qi Yan all the time, but Song Fei does feel pity for the guy. With his personality, not taking the first place is as good as failing. Second place makes no difference to him. With that thought, Song Fei looks at Qi Yan leaving alone, his heart hurting a little.
Sports Day lasts for two days. In the afternoon of the second day, the schoolmates who had been busy in key positions of event organisers, referees and scorekeepers now transform into sweeping monks — The performing arts competition finally begins.
In any other situation, if one doesn’t compare oneself with others, one won’t get hurt. But when the gap between the two is too big, even if the weaker one surrenders, the stronger opponent will still have him look stupid. Think about it like this: You are standing in front of a strong wind, an umbrella flies right past you and you watch a poor human desperately run after it, his back full of dust and mud.
In the end, schoolmates of 440 come to the conclusion — To perform arts needs real expertise. They might as well stick with Tai chi fan dance.
As Sports Day is ending, it gets colder. On the campus, the older trees that can’t handle the cold have begun to yellow. Occasionally, a few golden leaves float along the wind to land on the pine trees. Bright golden leaves meeting dark green needles makes a stunningly beautiful scene.
Song Fei returns to his exclusive work-life balance — He takes compulsory courses, skips optional ones, chases after new things and plays with his phone. But after a week, a pessimistic feeling takes over him. Every normal day in this room, Wang Qingyuan is either reading books or doing homework, Xiang Yang is flirting with his wife on the phone while Ren Zhe is nowhere to be seen unless they meet in class, for he is always outside busy catching girls. But recently, 440 is breaking the habit, because except for Song Fei holding onto his laptop, the rest are fixated at their desks, a phrase “hardworking mode” quite literally printed on their backs.
Song Fei sits up in the upper bunk; the sun has nicely just set. 440 is shrouded in a warm and soft halo, with one ‘dream chaser’ at the upper bunk and three ‘model students’ at the lower desks. The backs of his roommates working at their desks look exactly the same as his ex-boyfriend’s. The full-of-experience schoolmate Song has a thrilling sensation: Just when he is out of the tiger’s den, he falls back into the wolf’s den.
“Cough,” Song Fei clears his throat and asks with caution, “Well, can I interrupt you two?”
The words are spoken to three people, but Wang Qingyuan doesn’t even make a slight move, while Xiang Yang and Ren Zhe raise their heads enthusiastically —
“What are you doing?”
Song Fei is very pleased that at least his roommates are still aware of where they are.
“Should I ask you two, are you possessed or enchanted? Are you planning to ascend the Heavens?”
Ren Zhe gives Xiang Yang a look and signals, you tell him.
The latter nods and looks up, his voice bitter, “Brother, we are just working harder because it’s almost the last minute.”
Song Fei can see the light glowing in their eyes as they sit at their desks.
“The question is, haven’t you both passed Level 4?!” he spits out the words with self-pity, but Song Fei couldn’t care anymore. He wants to defend his dignity, that of 440’s only man who looks down on Level 4.
The two roommates look at each other and answer unanimously, “Yeah, so we are now practising for Level 6.”
Song Fei is shocked, and he suspects that his hearing has become hallucinatory. “You two are going to take Level 6? Didn’t you say that you would never touch an English textbook again after Level 4, that you would never do anything outside of your compulsory courses? Ren Zhe, didn’t you insist that Chinese should be the primary language of this whole planet?”
Xiang Yang pust down his pen, looking as though he is reminiscing about the old days when he was still young and naive, his eyes distant and blurry. After a while, the enchanted state is over and desolation takes over him. He looks at Song Fei and lets out a weak sigh, “Young man, you don’t understand. There is a kind of hardship called ‘your wife feels you should work harder’.”
Song Fei swallows and suddenly wants to give a comforting hug to his schoolmates.
“What about you? You don’t have a wife.” Xiang Yang’s helplessness is understandable, but Ren Zhe has no reason to be this diligent.
Ren Zhe flips his elegant hair, “Brother, haven’t you seen the reality yet? You have less than 3 years left to woo the girls with your academic achievements. If you don’t work hard when you are young, you will be sad when you get old!”
Song Fei swallows again and finally feels that his intention to continue napping deserves a capital punishment.
“I’m going downstairs to get some water. Does anyone want to come…” Song Fei jumps out of bed and decides to go to the water room to calm down.
Wang Qingyuan: “No.”
Ren Zhe: “Just took one at noon.”
Xiang Yang: “I’ll go later on the way to dinner.”
Their brotherhood was as deep as the sea when it first began, but from today on this dumbass suddenly becomes a mere passer-by. They don’t even need me to help them take water anymore, Song Fei solemnly tells himself.
After being criticised by the counselor following the electric kettle incident, Song Fei’s room swears to become good citizens and carries thermos flasks downstairs to fetch water. Song Fei wants to eat first then fetch water after that, so he takes his green flask to place amid a huge crowd of other flasks in front of the water room door, even cunningly has it lean against the wall right below the window. First thing first, this position is easy to remember, and secondly, the window has a guardrail, so he can use the bicycle lock he carries with him to firmly lock the flask and the rail together.
Anti-fire, anti-theft, anti-loss. How painful it is to be so hyper-aware of reality.
The canteen at 5 o’clock is still empty and the food hasn’t been fully laid out yet. With one glance, only a few heads can be seen while the rest of the place are rows of empty plastic benches. Song Fei goes straight to the first counter and asks for white rice first, then moves to the second counter. As expected, the ‘experimental’ dishes could not wait to be put out.
“You come early today,” the canteen ladies who serve the food all know Song Fei. There are students who sometimes dare to try the new ‘experimental’ dishes, but it’s rare to have someone to be constantly up for the challenge. Over time, she can’t bear to serve these dangerous dishes at the same time as the normal ones anymore.
“Yes, no class today,” Song Fei gives her a lovely smile, but his attention is in fact all on the dishes. The new red and white dish has him reminisce the beautiful memories of Tai chi fan dance. But even for him who has challenged countless dishes before, he still has some uncertainty about this. “Auntie, what is it today?”
“Rice cake and watermelon stir fry.”
“Okay, I’ll have the mapo tofu.”
— Song Fei likes to try new things, but he isn’t blind.
Halfway through the meal, the canteen gradually receives more people. It’s still at least half an hour until the peak period, so Song Fei doesn’t care too much and continues to eat his own meal. Until someone sits down on the opposite seat.
Song Fei’s first reaction is to frown, and he looks up wanting to chide the person, my schoolmate, there are so many seats left, why are you here squeezing into my space?
He almost chokes as he sees Qi Yan’s face, but fortunately, he is eating tofu and not meat, which at least can be forcefully swallowed down.
“What a coincidence,” Qi Yan says with a smile that is glowing unity and friendship.
Song Fei glances at the red and white on his plate. He couldn’t hold back and asks, “Did you ask what kind of dish this is? You dare to challenge?”
Qi Yan replies without even thinking, “No need to ask, I know at a glance. It’s rice cake and watermelon stir fry.”
Song Fei is lost for words and can only give him an admiring look.
Okay, I won’t question further how you know the identity of this thing. Song Fei jumps to his biggest issue, “You didn’t have such a strong taste before…” He remembers that when they were together, each time Song Fei tried out new dishes, Qi Yan only quietly stared at the sky.
Qi Yan was stunned for a split sentence, then bowed his head and began to eat, “Occasionally I’d like to change my taste.”
Song Fei can’t see his expression clearly but feels that the atmosphere between the two is a little strange. But as to how it is strange, he can’t quite pinpoint. Fortunately, this kind of subtle weirdness is quickly blown away by the other person’s expression.
Song Fei stifles a laugh, “Come on brave man, how is it?”
Qi Yan spits out the rice cake and mutters a swear word for the first time, “F**k.”
The divine dish that could force an all-perfect student to swear eventually ends up in the dustbin. Qi Yan scraps a third of Mapo tofu from Song Fei. Admittedly, the food serving lady gives a lot, but Song Fei can’t bear to see his food enjoyed by the other person. It also seems that something isn’t right about them sharing food. Finally, Song Fei gives up and goes to take another portion of kung pao chicken.
The schoolmate who is loved by everyone totally helps himself and pokes his chopsticks into the chicken.
Song Fei explodes, “Which one do you want to eat?”
Qi Yan, with a rice grain still sticking on his face, feigns innocence, “Can’t we eat everything together…”
Song Fei goes 囧. The more he thinks, the more he figures there’s only one possible reply, “It’s not like we can’t…”
Qi Yan laughs again, and even with the rice grain still at the corner of his mouth, his handsome face somehow shines even more.
Song Fei is almost blinded by the light. He decides to not look at Qi Yan again, then keeps his head down and picks at the rice.
If he is to be honest, when Qi Yan wasn’t upset with him, all was good. It’s just like now, when Qi Yan has a softness concealed in his manly appearance and a cuteness hidden in his handsome face. Song Fei starts to fantasise… But forget it, let’s not mention the past again. Life is already stormy enough.
Translator and reviewer at Strictly Bromance blog. In essence, she lives to indulge in plot-driven stories sprinkled with camaraderie and slow-burn drama-free romance, especially more so if they belong to adventure, mystery or supernatural genre. A trope that she always thirsts after: “Comrades who go through life and death together”.