Chapter 8: Parting is in front of our eyes.
1. Feelings have always run deep.
Hard work doesn’t count for much, waiting for long doesn’t count for much either. As long as the crashing waves can settle down, everything will go as one desires. However, life is always a tragicomedy, the amount you put in isn’t the same as what you get.
It was once again time for the yearly arts festival. The two shows our class would present was a skit from Song Cheng and Guan He’s erhu performance. Guan He invited me to perform with her. I laughed in surprise, “That’s not possible, I have no arty cells in me.”
Guan He laughed, “You only need to sing along with the music. It’s the same as singing karaoke.”
I still shook my head so she gave me a deep explanation for why she wanted me to perform, “Our high school entrance exams are coming soon, afterwards, we won’t know if we can enter the same school. Even if we do go to the same school, the chances of us being in the same class is very small. Perhaps with time, you and I will naturally drift apart. I only want to leave a memory for our year as desk mates. Perhaps one day, when you see your daughter performing on stage, you’ll suddenly remember me, remember that there was a girl who once sang along with you. After we enter high school, I’ll focus on studying and stop participating in these cultural activities. This is probably the last performance of my middle school life so I want it to be special. This is my graduation present for myself, and also for you.”
Her words were so passionate. What was worse though was that I was actually moved by her words. I said, “When the time comes, don’t blame me if we’re an embarrassment.”
Guan He understood it as me agreeing and laughed, “It’s fine, I didn’t plan to get the award.”
Zhang Jun seemed to be let out but he would still miss classes from time to time. The teachers all knew that it was because he was taken to the police station to be interrogated so he didn’t even need to provide an excuse note.
When Zhang Jun was at school, he always wore a solemn expression as if he was pondering a question. I suspected that even when he wasn’t in the police station, he would still be thinking of how to answer their questions. The questions he was faced with now wasn’t any easier to the ones earlier on. Perhaps he didn’t do much but he knew quite a lot, personal loyalty didn’t make it an easy decision.
Zhang Jun was still Zhang Jun, still as listless as before. However, the way those few devils from Class(7) looked at Zhang Jun was now different. They were very quiet in class and listened attentively. Anyhow, all of a sudden, Zhang Jun grew a lot of deterrent force.
Hao Lian still didn’t come to school. Although even the most gossipy students weren’t clear on his news, everyone could tell that his crime was definitely more serious than Zhang Jun’s.
Tong Yun Zhu often went to find Zhang Jun. When Zhang Jun wasn’t deep in thought, he would definitely be accompanying her.
Everyone saw Zhang Jun and Tong Yun Zhu often but they never saw him with his girlfriend, Chen Su Nan. I had a feeling that Zhang Jun was probably going to get dumped again. And as expected, not long after, news spread from the high school department that Chen Su Nan and Zhang Jun broke up. Her way of breaking up was, compared to his previous two girlfriends, ten times more artistic, it really suited the expectations of teenage girls.
That day, Song Cheng and the others were discussing scripts for their skit and Guan He and I were discussing what we should sing when the hubbub in the corridors suddenly quietened. A few girls ran in and apologetically asked, “Can we listen to the radio?”
We all nodded in confusion, thinking that something had happened in school and the head wanted to speak.
They opened the radio and the radio host’s voice ran out in the classroom, charged with emotion, “The next song is chosen by our station’s previous president, Chen Su Nan, to her good friend, Zhang Jun. She wants to say three words to him, first is ‘thank you’, second, ‘goodbye’ and third, ‘sorry’. Let us all enjoy the Taiwanese singer, Chen Shu Hua’s ‘Red Dust’.
I hung out at the karaoke bar often but this was my first time hearing this song. The song was really good but thinking that, “The heart that should have been yours, it is still protected in my chest” is Chen Su Nan and “Thus the you who didn’t want to go, must bid farewell to me who is no longer here” is Zhang Jun- made me hear happiness from a song filled with sadness. I couldn’t help stopping laughing and Guan He also started to laugh.
A girl in the corridor shouted, “Zhang Jun is downstairs, he’s also heard it.”
Everyone in the classroom rushed out to the corridors and leaned by the windows looking down. Guan He also dragged me out.
In the courts, Zhang Jun and Tong Yun Zhu were walking side by side. The school’s loudspeakers were playing the song and the speakers in every classroom were also playing it like a big choir.
I couldn’t see what kind of expression Zhang Jun had, I only say him and Tong Yun Zhu stand there for a bit and then walk in the opposite direction of the school building, he probably predicted that there will be a group of people waiting to see him in the middle school department’s corridors.
The girls were all very touched after hearing the song. The talked in whispers and actually in a moment, derived that Zhang Jun, Chen Su Nan and Tong Yun Zhu were in a love triangle. Oh, there’s also an extra person, Hao Lian, it’s a love square.
Guan He rested her face on my shoulder as her whole body shook with laughter. Originally, I also laughed but as I laughed, I suddenly remembered that actually, there is an outside lead- Guan He, and a passerby- Luo Qi Qi.
Although I was still laughing, anguish slowly spread around my body. The girl iwho is able to wave goodbye to Zhang Jun is so lucky, how come I can’t do the same?
The feelings at this age are unpredictable, in a split second, you’ll like someone, in a split second, you’ll also stop liking someone. You’ll like him because of his silhouette in the window, you’ll also stop liking because of something immature that he said; you’ll like him because of a certain expression in his eyes, you’ll also stop liking him because of his certain actions……
The classmates around me were really like this, this term, they’ll like person A, next term, perhaps they’ll start liking person B. They’ll be falling in and out of love at the same time but why can’t I be like that? So many years have gone by and on one side, I’d decide to drift away from Zhang Jun but on the other side, I’d always be caring for him, feeling heartache for him, feeling bad for him.
“Next, we’ll be appreciating poetry. Today, the poetry we are playing for everyone is……”
I walked into the classroom and pulled the cord, closing the radio. I said to Guan He, “How about we choose this song, the tune isn’t very high.”
“When the entire audience is laughing, Zhang Jun will come looking for us.”
“Scared of him? Isn’t he just here to amuse everyone? This year he’s even more entertaining than entertainers. One moment, he’s playing a Hong Kong gangster film, next, he’s playing a Taiwanese Qiong Yao drama, I feel like we should award him with a ‘best entertainer of the year’ award.”
Chen Song , Li Shan and the others around us all started laughing.
Guan He also laughed, “No wonder you’re a pro at debating! Luckily you don’t like to fight or else who would be able to argue and win against you?”
“Then should we just sing this song? Even if we can’t win an award, we can borrow Zhang Jun’s thunder and be awarded with the audience’s laughter.”
Guan He laughed until she couldn’t breathe, “It’s not possible, as soon as we get screened by the headmaster, our act will be dropped. Our headmaster hates students copying Taiwanese and Hong Kong things the most. Luckily the No. 1 principal isn’t him or else it’ll be like a concentration camp here.”
I said to her seriously, “don’t choose a revolutionary song, I can’t sing those; also don’t choose an ethnic song, I can’t sing those either.”
Guan He shook her head worriedly.
I went back to read my novels and left her to think of a solution. Hopefully she won’t be able to think of one and give up on me.
Xiao Bo was in the sprint for the gaokao and was studying very strenuously. Guan He and I were also busy preparing for the arts festival so I didn’t go to find Xiao Bo for a very long time.
Every Monday, the school would have a formal flag raising ceremony. The high school department stood on the left side of the courts and the middle school department stood on the right. After the flag raising, each department will sum up the week.
However, today, it was very unusual, the school convened the high school and middle school students together and the principal started speaking.
“……In the future, the school will definitely strengthen our studious atmosphere. Recently, some disgusting things has happened in the school and has seriously impacted No. 1’s reputation outside of the school. The school has decided to deal with these things sternly so we have decided to hold disciplinary actions for these students.
The disciplinary director held a list of names and started calling them out: “Middle school 3rd year, Class (3)’s Hao Lian is to be expelled; middle school 3rd year, Class (3)’s Zhang Jun is to be under school observation for half a year; high school 1st year’s xxx …., high school 2nd year’s xxx……”
Suddenly, I heard, “High school 3rd year Class (6)’s Xu Xiao Bo is to be expelled……”
I was frozen in shock, unable to believe what I just heard. I definitely heard wrong! It’s definitely someone else whose name sounds similar to his!
The principal started speaking but I only wanted to seize the list of names in his hands and carefully look through them. Finally, when this slow and arduous assembly came to an end, I immediately rushed to the school’s announcement board.
It was really Xiao Bo!
I couldn’t bother with class, and I turned wanting to leave. Guan He saw my intentions and reminded me, “The principal already said, every homeroom teacher has to be strict on discipline now. Don’t put push the gun on yourself.”
I ignored her and sneaked out of school. I called a tazi and went to the karaoke bar.
The karaoke bar’s doors were firmly shut. I knocked for a long time but no one came to open it so I could only go to ‘Across the Water’ but I never expected ‘Across the Water’ to also be firmly locked.
I worriedly slammed at the door. Finally, a window opened and when seeing it was me, the person inside called to me, “Luo Qi Qi.”
I rushed over, “Where’s Brother Li? Where’s Xiao Bo?”
He pulled my hand and let me climb inside, “Wait, I’ll call Brother Li and tell him that you’re here.”
I walked to and fro waiting. He finished the call and came back, “Brother Li said that he’s coming over immediately and told you to wait.”
“What exactly happened?”
“I don’t know the exact details, I only heard that Brother Xiao Bo’s place was reported for drugs. Brother Wu Zei was taken to jail and I think Brother Xiao Bo crippled someone so Brother Li closed all his businesses for now.”
I sat paralysed on the sofa, unable to move.
Hearing a car outside beep, he quickly went to open the door and let me leave, “Brother Li is here.”
I hurriedly ran out and sat down by Brother Li, unable to wait, “Where’s Xiao Bo?”
Brother Li’s eyes were bloodshot, “I got people to escort him out of the province.”
“Will he be sentenced?”
“I’m trying my best to deal with the injured person. I hope he’ll be able to tell the police that he didn’t see who hit him clearly.”
“Are your chances of succeeding big?”
“There’s a door. I’ve sent people to use both hard and soft tactics. His parents are both old, him being crippled is already a reality now. Compared to sending Xiao Bo to jail with just a few words, taking the money and spending the rest of his life well is better. If he wants to fight with us, we can’t do anything about it but unless he sends me along to prison as well, then after this year’s storm has gone, his family better prepare a coffin because I’m ready to risk everything.”
“Why did Xiao Bo do this? Does the karaoke bar really have drugs?”
“You know my rules, we definitely don’t meddle with drugs. The karaoke bar was framed for drugs. You’ll have to blame me for this, I wanted to properly business this year. I only saw the ruckus Little Six was making and didn’t protect my back. Xiao Bo wasn’t able to argue against the charge so to protect Xiao Bo and I, Wu Zei put the charges on his head. At that time, I lost control of my emotions for a few days and said a few words I shouldn’t have. I pushed Xiao Bo too hard and added to the news that Wu Zei was definitely going to jail, Xiao Bo became impulsive and this happened.”
I looked in front of me at a loss. Wasn’t Xiao Bo the person who had the most rationality and restraint? Didn’t he tell me that the world was very big, and that I shouldn’t injure my wings early on? Wasn’t the thing he wanted to do the most to go to university?
I murmured, “Xiao Bo was expelled by the school.”
Brother Li was very downcast but he assured me, “No problem, as long as this thing calms over, later I’ll think of a way to get him to do the gaokao in another province. There’s still time for him to take it next year, think of it as him waiting a year for you.”
I didn’t say anything, my head rested against the window.
“Qi Qi, go back to school.” Brother Li’s car stopped outside No. 1’s gates. “Seeing Little Six’s brothers all either betray him or run away shows that they they see their lives as more important. At the critical moment, no one sees him as the big brother. However, Xiao Bo and Wu Zei will for sure use their bodies to protect me from the knives. I am the same towards them so don’t worry, I definitely wouldn’t let anything happen to them.
I didn’t make a sound. Not let anything happen to them? Right now one is in jail and the other has escaped the province, is this called not letting anything happen?
Brother Li continued, “I know that you feel really bad inside and want to help Xiao Bo but you can’t do anything. As long as you study hard at school, that’s the biggest help to us.”
As Brother Li said this, the veins on his hands were jumping.
I nodded, opened the car door and got off. I turned back and reminded him, “If there’s any news, you have to tell me, no matter if it’s good……or bad.”
When I entered the class, I thought that Teacher Wu would punish me but I didn’t expect her to let me in.
I didn’t have the energy to think over it and silently sat down at my desk.
Guan He whispered, “I helped you take leave. I said that your period came unexpectedly again. Later after class, if the teacher asks you, don’t spill the beans.”
I nodded, actually she thought too much. Teacher Wu trusted Guan He, whatever she said, the teacher would definitely believe.
Wow, that was an unexpected turn of events. I’m really curious now to what Brother Li said that made Xiao Bo act like that. This is the last chapter of book one though so I’m sure it’ll end with a (hopefully good) bang. I’m still trying to get my head over what just happened though. What the heck!? What are your reactions to this part?