Editor: merahmapple 🍁
Until a long time later, Qu Zhengyan firmly believed that Xiao Jin was influenced by his bad friends. People are easily influenced by their surroundings and the companions they hang around with1近朱者赤，近墨者黑 He who stays near vermilion gets stained red, and he who stays near ink gets stained black).
Because Du Yongjin was not by his side, those people made use of every second and every inch to leave a bad influence on Xiao Jin… It was unimaginable how blind a person could be because of emotions.
At that time, Qu Zhengyan hoped to separate Xiao Jin from those people. He first used his homework as an excuse.
When Du Yongjin invited him again to play, he rejected the invitation, saying that there was too much homework to be done.
“Xiao Jin, you always don’t study. What will you do when you take the university entrance examinations?”
“…Don’t be a worrywart. I’m sure I will pass the exam.” Du Yongjin casually answered back, playing video games as he waited. Qu Zhengyan was presently rushing out on his homework.
Du Yongjin turned his head impatiently to look at Qu Zhengyan. “Not done yet?”
“…It’s almost done. Xiao Jin, is entry to film school easy?”
Du Yongjin glanced back at him with an expression reserved for idiots.
Qu Zhengyan sighed. “Then you have to at least read some books.”
After a while, Du Yongjin leaned over and laid beside him. “So annoying. Talking so much, when will you finish?”
“You’re playing next to me. That’s why my efficiency is low!”
Du Yongjin rested his chin on his hand, “It’s not that exams are difficult. There are always students better than you. Why do you study so hard?”
Qu Zhengyan probed, “Then I’ll stay here and you will go to the school in Beijing by yourself?”
Du Yongin blinked. He was startled for a moment.
“A good school has a high entry score. How can I get a high score if I play with you every day? If I don’t get a good score, I can’t go.”
“Hey,” Du Yongjin thought on a whim. “Take the film school entrance exam with me.”
Qu Zhengyan rolled his eyes. “Stop talking nonsense.”
“Why not?” Du Yongjin became more excited as he thought about it. “Why don’t you use your connections?”
Qu Zhengyan stared at him sternly. He lowered his head to continue writing his homework, and replied in a low voice, “Forget it. If I fail the exam, I can either find a school here or go to my brother’s side. In any case, it’s embarrassing enough.”
After a long silence, Du Yongjin reached out and turned off the TV. He grabbed a book in his hand. “You do your homework. I’ll accompany you.”
Qu Zhengyan was very satisfied. To have him stay in the same area as him for university, Xiao Jin was still willing to let him study hard. He was able to keep Xiao Jin at home this time. This plan should also work the next time too.
And he was right. Although it was not successful every time, in those two, three months, the time these two people spent playing did decrease.
But after the high school winter vacation, a situation disrupted Qu Zhengyan’s plan.
To improve the grades of the students, No. 19 High School planned to open a closed boarding system for students heading to the third grade next year.
If the results were good, the school would continue to implement the plan in the future. Though it was possible to go home on weekends, the school often scheduled classes during that time. As a result, Qu Zhengyan immediately lost control of Du Yongjin’s activities and whereabouts.
When he called at night, Qu Zhengyan always couldn’t help but ask, “What are you doing? You didn’t go out and play right?”
Seemingly obedient, Du Yongjin knew what Qu Zhengyan was worried about.
His replies were usually, “Of course not, I am at home.” or “No, I’m outside to buy stuff, will go home soon.” Or other reasons Qu Zhengyan could accept.
Hence, when Qu Zhengyan appeared at the school gate to wait for Du Yongjin, he found that this self-proclaimed very well-behaved guy had skipped class as early as noon. Unsure where he went, Qu Zhengyan was despondent, unhappy beyond words.
At the gate of the attached high school, he saw his former neighbor, the little fatty Luo Tao. They chatted happily.
Perhaps due to the nervousness of attending high school, the little fatty became tall and thin. He patted Qu Zhengyan’s shoulder and asked, “You have still time to come over?”
“Our school participates in an English learning seminar for regional high school students. The location is here.”
“So that’s it.” Luo Tao looked at the students who came out from time to time. He realized, “Are you looking for Du Yongjin?”
“That’s right,” Qu Zhengyan looked at his watch and asked suspiciously, “Has he left yet?”
Luo Tao laughed. “He already left. I didn’t see him in the afternoon.”
“If you want to find him, you must call in advance. Otherwise, who knows where he is.”
Indeed Qu Zhengyan had not called. However, Xiao Jin never called him when Xiao Jin was looking for him either. Yet no matter the time Xiao Jin searched for him, Qu Zhengyan was always there!
The sky was getting darker. The street lights were switched on.
The weather was reaching the turn of spring and summer, and the days were longer. The street lights being on meant the time was seven or eight o’clock in the evening.
His calls were not answered by the other side.
Qu Zhengyan couldn’t wait any longer. He had to return home first. Halfway through his walk, his phone rang. Qu Zhengyan answered.
“Xiao Yan, did you look for me?” It was Du Yongjin.
“Yeah.” Qu Zhengyan replied in a dull voice.
“What’s the matter?” Du Yongjin’s voice was brisk.
“It’s nothing, I wanted to see you. Since you’re not here, just forget it.”
“…Xiao Yan, you came?”
“……Where are you now?”
Qu Zhengyan raised his head, his fringe blown by the violent river wind. He sat on a chair on the deck and overlooking the railings, he could see the billowing river water shadowed by the night. Lights can be seen flickered far ahead. “I’m on the ferry.”
On the other side of the call, Du Yongjin remained silent for a while. “I will find you tomorrow.”
Qu Zhengyan stiffly told him, “There are extra classes tomorrow. I don’t have time to come out.”
“…Then I will come the day after tomorrow.”
“Xiao Yan…” He didn’t know why but Du Yongjin’s tone was unlike in the past. It was especially soft and sweet. “Are you angry? You didn’t tell me you are coming after all. You…”
At this time, someone next to Du Yongjin called his name. That voice seemed to be familiar.
It was silent in Qu Zhengyan’s ear. Then, a dull buzzing sounded; Xiao Jin covered the phone’s mic.
After a while, the call’s conversation returned to normal. “Xiao Yan? Let me tell you. There’s a special reason for my absence today. I went to a place… Well, you will be surprised. I will find you the day after tomorrow, and then I will tell you more. Okay? Don’t be angry!”
His voice was full of joy, presumably because the place he went after skipping class today must be very exciting. Qu Zhengyan suddenly felt discouraged. He kept quiet, finally saying in a low voice, “Up to you.”
Qu Zhengyan’s bad mood lasted until the next day, and he was listless in anything. In the evening, he went to the student union office to hand in a summary of the seminar.
Wang Bailu was currently typing on the computer keyboard. Her lunch box was set aside. It seemed that she had not taken time off to have a meal. Seeing Qu Zhengyan entering, she just said, “Give me a minute, I’ll be done soon.”
Qu Zhengyan sat down, waiting to see what Wang Bailu was doing.
It was the minutes of the meeting, outlining the plan for the summer study exchange discussed a few days ago. The teaching staff for No. 19 High School was generally shorthanded, especially for science subjects. Hence, it was decided that this summer, a teaching exchange program would be held with its brother school. As this plan was proposed by the student union, it was a must to hold some responsibility in the organization.
Qu Zhengyan also participated in that meeting. Naturally, he offered, “Let me type. You should eat first.”
Wang Bailu happily got up and gave it to him. “That’s great. Thanks.”
Qu Zhengyan took over the task from her and typed seriously.
On one side, Wang Bailu took her lunch box and started eating. She saw Qu Zhengyan’s hand flipping through the summarised notes left on the table and said, “You have already done it? So efficient.”
Qu Zhengyan smiled and said nothing.
Wang Bailu raised her eyebrows slightly and continued with her lunch.
Qu Zhengyan slowly stopped on what he was doing. Lost in thought, he called out, “Wang Bailu…”
“What?” The girl answered.
“Are you taking the night consultation class?”
“I want to talk about the mock test papers that were given yesterday. Have you finished it?”
“When did you complete it?”
“During the afternoon break time.”
Qu Zhengyan looked at her. He knew how busy she was, but even so, her results firmly sat at the top of the list. He had to admit, she was better than himself.
Towards anyone better than him in a certain aspect, Qu Zhengyan will instinctively feel admiration towards that person and subconsciously learn from the other’s strengths, hoping that he can be as good as the other person.
For example, when Mrs. Qu talked about her eldest son, she would occasionally say how good his elder brother was at his age, and what achievements have been made. In this situation, Qu Zhengyan had never felt disgusted, rather, he would listen carefully with envy and awe, and strive to catch up. — This was his strength, a desire to seek improvement.
Not all could be like him, but the current Qu Zhengyan had not realized this.
He just, as he looked at Wang Bailu and thought of Du Yongjin, he couldn’t understand.
“Don’t you… feel tired?”
Wang Bailu looked at him puzzledly.
“…Isn’t it boring to be shut in school every day?”
“Well…” Wang Bailu blinked and smiled. “Everyone thinks differently. If you ask me, I find it quite interesting.”
She thought about it and continued, “Since this is something that must be experienced, of course, I have to find something within that gives joy.”
Qu Zhengyan muttered, “Something that must be experienced…”
“Youthful years, student years,” Wang Bailu said, “Of course, while we are young, the most enjoyable way is to do whatever you want. But some things must be done no matter if you hate it. If you only do those which are easy and ignore those that you hate, I’m afraid I will regret it when I reach the next stage of my life.”
Qu Zhengyan lowered his head in thought.
Wang Bailu looked at him and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, I just…” Qu Zhengyan sighed softly, “… I just don’t understand what Xiao Jin is thinking!” He still said it aloud.
The situation, emotions, and feelings related to Xiao Jin became more and more complicated and heavy, making his heart felt suffocated.
Wang Bailu was silent. After a while, she said, “So it’s because of Du Yongjin…”
“He’s like this….. probably because everything is too easy.”
Qu Zhengyan still could not understand what she was trying to say.
Wang Bailu calmly analyzed, “See, think about it. In such an environment where everyone around him let him do whatever he wanted and flattered him. How he was in elementary school, I’m not sure. But whatever he did in middle school, the teachers did not say anything to him. When he does something wrong, there is someone else to take responsibility for him. Whatever he wants, he only needs to say a word…It’s not surprising that he will become this capricious.”
Although her words were polite, her tone showed her disapproval.
Qu Zhengyan remembered what happened during middle school, and he couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. He lowered his voice, “Actually, Xiao Jin knew it was wrong afterward…”
The corners of Wang Bailu’s lips lifted slightly, seemingly not smiling.
“…I think it was because he befriended the wrong people.”
“Yes,” Wang Bai Lu lazily replied. “Du Yongjin’s friends either eat, drink, play with him or plan tricks and conspiracies together… Helping to clean up the aftermath and indulging in his recklessness… Such good friends.”
Qu Zhengyan’s face suddenly flushed.
Wang Bailu looked at him for a moment and laughed, “Ay, Du Yongjin’s character has been like that for many years. Why are you suddenly bothered?”
“…I don’t know.”
“To be honest, Qu Zhengyan, you and Du Yongjin are a complete polar opposite. With his kind of personality, I’m afraid he won’t listen to anything you say.”
“Maybe, but I always feel that it’s not good to go on like this.”
“…Or,” Wang Bailu said slowly, “you can take a different approach.”
- 1近朱者赤，近墨者黑 He who stays near vermilion gets stained red, and he who stays near ink gets stained black)