When the scheduled time for the school celebration ceremony arrived, the curtains of the small auditorium remained drawn. The ceremony had not yet started.
A delay was within his expectations. Ji Ran sat down, took his mobile phone out of boredom and posted his location in the three-person chat.
Yue Wen Wen: ? !
Yue Wen Wen: Ran Ran, why did you go back to Man Cheng High? Did you finally become enlightened after so many years and decide to burn the school down?
Ji Ran: That’s right, but I lost my lighter.
Yue Wen Wen: Wait for me, I’ll bring one over right now!
The two of them chatted for a while before the third person finally appeared.
Cheng Peng: Today must be the school celebration. Man Cheng High also sent me an invitation but I had to turn it down because I’m busy with other matters.
Yue Wen Wen: I also heard about this… Wait a minute, Ran Ran, you received an invitation?
Ji Ran: Yup.
Yue Wen Wen almost exploded.
Yue Wen Wen: Why didn’t that lousy school send me an invite? Lao Niang never got anything below the top hundred in my three years of schooling. Plus, I’ve always been law-abiding and never got into any trouble.
Ji Ran: You can come over if you’d like, there are seats in the back.
It wasn’t as if Yue Wen Wen really wanted to come. He simply felt unjust having not received an invitation.
Yue Wen Wen: Forget it, I’m not going. What if countless juniors decide to confess to me? But didn’t you not want to go back, why did you return this time?
It wasn’t like he planned to go abroad, so Ji Ran didn’t waste his time giving them an explanation.
Ji Ran: I told you, I’m here to burn the school down.
Sending over this message, he put away his phone and looked around just in time to see a middle-aged man holding his chin and walking over.
It was his junior high form teacher.
The other person’s expression wasn’t great as he faked a smile.
“Ji Ran, you’re here. I haven’t seen you for so long and you’ve… grown again.” Looking at his hair, the teacher barely maintained his smile.
Ji Ran continued to sit there as he asked, “What is it?”
Since the celebration had not yet begun, the venue was buzzing with noise. The seats around him were still empty, so the teacher simply sat beside him.
“It’s like this… your father requested us to give you some stage time, so we added in 3 extra minutes for you to go up and give a speech as a graduate representative. This is the script that you can read off later, there’s no need to memorise it.”
Ji Ran raised an eyebrow and received the script.
In the short script, the most numerous words were ‘grateful’ and ‘joyful’.
Ji Ran laughed. He never expected that this father of his would do something so useful for him.
Seeing his laugh, the teacher felt extremely sheepish. “Is there something wrong?”
“Nope.” Ji Ran folded the script and put it into his pocket. “Don’t worry, Teacher. I will give a proper speech.”
“…” The number of times Ji Ran had called him ‘Teacher’ could be counted on two hands. He was a little startled and quickly nodded habitually. “That’s good. What have you been up to recently? Have you run into any trouble?”
Ji Ran retracted his gaze. “Teacher, you should leave.”
The middle-aged man froze. In the end, he said nothing and returned to his seat.
Having taught for over a decade, the man couldn’t be considered lacking. But it was a fact that he felt ashamed in front of Ji Ran.
Ji Ran was in the class he taught as the form teacher for the first time when he had no experience. He knew about the isolation and rejection Ji Ran faced, as well as how he was occasionally pushed about. In the beginning, he did speak to those mischievous students but nothing worked. He reported this matter to their parents, but unexpectedly, it did nothing to stop it. The head of the department even spoke to him, saying that it was normal for adolescent children to fight and make trouble, so he should just focus on teaching instead of meddling in such trivial matters.
After a few times, he began to waver. He was initially a meek person and everything he did previously was already all he could do in his capacity.
As for what he said to Ji Ran back when the boy needed his help, he whispered to him, “If they bully you, you just have to hide. I’ll talk to them, but you should also reflect on your own issues.”
He still remembered seeing the light disappear from Ji Ran’s eyes.
From then on, Ji Ran never looked for him until he landed someone in the hospital. It was then he realised that the boy had changed.
He felt shame towards Ji Ran and this was why he chose to turn a blind eye whenever the latter slept through his class or played truant.
Once the teacher left, Ji Ran slowly unclenched his fist, revealing the crumpled script within.
Ji Ran turned around and saw the person sitting next to him had arrived.
“It really is you.” It was a man wearing a suit, looking prim and proper. The man smiled, “It’s me, we were classmates back in junior high and I sat diagonally in front of you.”
Ji Ran finally believed Qin Man’s words. Although he felt a sense of familiarity, he couldn’t recall who this person was.
To be specific… he had a deeper impression of Qin Man’s classmates.
He nodded and gave a greeting.
It seemed that their seats were arranged according to their junior high classes. He looked around and confirmed that only the two of them from their class had come before returning to his previously languid posture.
If his enemies came, he might start a fight right now.
Wait a minute, if it was arranged by classes…
Ji Ran instinctively looked over,
Sure enough, Qin Man sat next to Ji Wei, who was seated next to the man who previously confessed to Qin Man in the school’s grove.
Just as he peered over at them through a gap, the man suddenly leaned forward and patted Qin Man’s shoulder.
From this angle, he could only see the back of Qin Man’s head; he couldn’t see his expression.
However, Ji Ran could see the other man’s pandering smile.
“Um, Ji Ran.” The person next to him suddenly spoke.
Ji Ran retracted his gaze. “What is it?”
“I saw the matter on the internet previously.” The man lowered his voice, “That’s you, isn’t it?”
Ji Ran’s expression cooled. He stared at the ground silently.
“I also commented on the Weibo post. I don’t know much… but I know you’ve never bullied anyone in school. I even fought them over 20 floors.”
For a moment, Ji Ran couldn’t grasp what he said. “…Huh?”
“Online, everyone is like this. Since they are behind a screen, they don’t have anything to worry about. If you take it too seriously, you’ll be on the losing end, so don’t bother with them.”
Ji Ran stared at him for a while and suddenly had a faint recollection.
He hesitated for a second to ask, “Back then… weren’t you a little short?”
“Hey!” The man laughed and patted his shoulder. “I was just a little shorter in junior high, but I shot up in my second year.”
Ji Ran finally remembered him.
Back in junior high, when everyone was isolating him, there was a shorty who once gave him a bottle of medicinal solution. However, his mind had been full of revenge, so he never thought much about this incident. Later on, they didn’t have any interactions.
He nodded, his tone becoming more sincere. “It’s been a while.”
They continued to speak for a bit before Ji Ran’s phone vibrated.
Q: What are you guys talking about? You look happy.
Ji Ran looked over and saw Qin Man looking straight ahead while talking to the school leaders.
Daddy Ji: None of your business.
Q: I’m bored. Can I go look for you?
Daddy Ji: No.
Daddy Ji: Bored? I saw you were talking quite happily with those brothers of yours.
Q: Are you spying on me? [Penguin looking around.]
Daddy Ji: ???
Daddy Ji: Who’s spying on you? Can you not be so shameless?
Daddy Ji: [Excuse Me.jpg]
Q: If you weren’t looking at me, how did you see me talking when I’ve only said a few words to them?
Q: He only asked me some questions about the script.
Daddy Ji: I didn’t ask, don’t rush to answer.
After sending this over, there weren’t any more replies. Ji Ran looked over and saw that Qin Man was chatting with the school leaders.
Just as he was about to put away his phone, he saw Qin Man gesture ‘wait a moment’ before looking down to tap away on his phone.
Q: Answering may get me bonus points.
Tsk, what an opportunistic fellow.
Ji Ran chuckled dully and kept his phone away, no longer replying.
It didn’t take long for the celebration to begin. The emcees were students; two boys and two girls with great charisma. They gave a standard opening speech, praising the school up and down, praising more than a dozen leaders left and right, then slowly got to the point.
On the stage, the male host said earnestly, “In order to allow the students and graduates who cannot enter the small auditorium due to the limited number of seats to participate in this school celebration, we have linked the microphone up to the school-wide broadcast. So, everyone outside the small auditorium will be able to feel the lively atmosphere of the venue.”
This time, the school arranged a total of five graduate representatives to speak and Ji Ran was a sixth.
Ji Wei was also one of the student representatives. When he came up to the stage to speak, Ji Ran listened. It was very polite and hypocritical, and his final reflections were even more fake.
After the fourth representative finished his speech, the host returned to the stage.
“The graduate who will speak next has studied in our school for six years and was successfully admitted to XX University after graduation. Although it has been many years since he left school, he has not forgotten the kindness of his alma mater and has chosen to donate a thousand desks and chairs along with a hundred computers to the school, as well as 100 air conditioners. Let’s welcome Senior Ji Ran with applause!”
Ji Ran stood up and strode toward the podium.
Many graduates’ faces twisted. Almost everyone in the three years above and below his grade knew about Ji Ran’s behaviour in school.
“Did you know about his speech?” Ji Wei unconsciously frowned and asked the person beside him.
Qin Man shook his head.
Even in the chat just now, his junior brother didn’t mention this to him.
The first few representatives who spoke were all in suits and leather shoes. But when it was Ji Ran’s turn, he only wore a casual shirt, paired with his unusual hair colour. Many students in the audience who were playing with their phones couldn’t help but look up.
“Thank you very much, senior, for your generosity.” After saying this, the emcee bowed slightly to the stage and turned around, preparing to step down.
Ji Ran walked to the podium, raised a hand and patted the microphone in front of him. After making sure the microphone was working, he raised the microphone stand.
“No need to thank me, junior. I don’t intend to donate anything. You can look for whoever promised it.”
As soon as these words came out, the emcee’s steps froze and the entire small auditorium fell silent. Even the people who were whispering among themselves stopped what they were doing and looked at the person on the stage in shock.
These words were also transmitted word for word through the school broadcast system and played to all parts of the campus.
Seeing the dead silence, Ji Ran smiled.
“However, coming onto stage this time, I really want to thank the school.”
Before the school leaders could breathe a sigh of relief, the person on the stage spoke again
“I want to thank the school and its sky-high tuition fees for teaching me the meaning of generosity; I want to thank the canteen for its terrible meals that strengthened my stomach’s defences; I also want to thank a certain leader for maintaining long-term cooperation with the school uniform factory that sold such poor quality clothes at high prices, for letting me feel like I’m back in the trend of wearing ripped pants.”
Ji Wei: “…”
Qin Man couldn’t hold back a smile that escaped from the corner of his mouth.
The face of the school leader next to him looked extremely bad and it took a long time for him to react. He pushed the person next to him: “Hurry up! Hurry up and cut the microphone! Hurry up!”
On stage, Ji Ran was still talking.
“Oh right, I still have something to be thankful for.” He said lightly, “I also want to thank my teachers.”
“Thank you for ignoring and turning a blind eye to the school violence I faced for so many years, allowing me to hone my physical abilities. Perhaps, when I retire, I can apply to become a boxing coach.”
The male teacher from before felt like he was sitting on pins and needles, and sweat dripped down his cheeks.
Ji Ran, “And…”
Before he could finish, the hall suddenly went silent—the microphone was cut off from the power supply.
Ji Ran raised his eyebrows, then shrugged. “Okay, it’s over.”
The people in the audience were stunned. When Ji Ran turned to leave, no one knew who suddenly took the lead in applauding. It was soon followed by thunderous applause. No matter how the teachers tried, they couldn’t stop it.
The school leaders were so angry that once Ji Ran stepped down, he saw that the school’s security guards were already waiting to get him out.
When he saw one of them, he greeted him, “Oh, Lao Xing, haven’t you retired yet?”
He greeted the captain of school security, the one who came to catch Ji Ran every day many years ago.
Lao Xing was also speechless. “You have already graduated for so many years, how can you still find trouble for me?”
“Am I not worried you’d be too idle?” Ji Ran grinned.
Truly. Once Ji Ran had graduated, he had indeed become idle.
He sighed, “This time, do you want to leave or do I have to drag you out?”
“Do you think I’m still the shorty from back then? I’ve trained after graduating, you won’t be able to drag me out.”
Lao Xing: “…”
“But it’s not like I intend to stay.” Ji Ran waved a hand. “Step aside, I’ll leave on my own. I won’t give you any more trouble.”
Lao Xing didn’t hesitate either since it wouldn’t be pretty if they got physical. He stepped aside, creating a path.
Ji Ran strode towards the exit and whistled as he passed the school leaders.
They almost exploded.
The small auditorium was filled with awkward silence. The female teacher walked quickly to Qin Man and whispered, “Xiao Man, you saw what happened just now. This Ji Ran ruined the whole school celebration. His words were broadcasted to the school and the matter is quite serious… I may have to trouble you to revise your speech in a while to try to help the school save face. Do you have any suggestions? Do you need your teacher to help prepare a new script?”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Do you have any ideas?”
“Nope.” Qin Man stood up and smoothed out the edges of his T-shirt with a smile. “I have nothing to say, so I also won’t be giving a speech.”
“I still have something to do, farewell.”
After he finished what he had to say, Qin Man turned around and strode out.