On the first day at Xuncheng No.2 High School, Yu Xinqiao’s breakfast was a single Red Fuji apple.
The villa area where he lived was near the school, and while he nibbled on his apple, he listened to a phone call from his father, Yu Hanzhang. Yu Hanzhang’s voice came through the receiver, ‘’The housekeeper will start work next week, so you’ll have to eat out this week. If you don’t have enough money, tell dad.’’
Yu Xinqiao responded vaguely with an ‘En,’ and stood by the window looking outside. The streets in the residential area were clean and tidy, and the rustling of leaves could be heard as the wind blew through the trees.
‘’What about mom?’’ Yu Xinqiao eventually asked. ‘’Is she still unable to eat?’’
A few days before being ‘exiled’ to Xuncheng, Yao Qiongying had begun to experience symptoms of insomnia and loss of appetite. Yu Xinqiao didn’t know if she was feeling better now.
‘’She’s doing better.’’ Perhaps not wanting Yu Xinqiao to blame himself, Yu Hanzhang added, ‘’The doctor prescribed her some medicine, and she’s sleeping now. You don’t need to worry too much.’’
Yu Xinqiao responded again with an ‘En’ and didn’t ask anything else.
Xuncheng was located near the capital, and the climate was similar.
Following the route he had studied the day before, Yu Xinqiao walked to the school gate. He didn’t notice anything different until he went upstairs and entered the classroom. He clenched his teeth and exclaimed from the bottom of his heart, ‘Damn it!’
In late winter and early spring, major schools in the capital still had their central heating on, but the classrooms here didn’t even have radiators. It was like falling into an ice cave as he walked in.
Thankfully, he wore a down jacket today. Thinking so, Yu Xinqiao pulled up the zipper and covered his collar all the way up to below his nostrils.
He sat down in a random seat in the back row.
Even though he didn’t say anything, Yu Xinqiao quickly became the center of attention among the surrounding students. In the second half of the sophomore year, the school was strict and required all students to wear school uniforms. Yu Xinqiao, wearing an all-white down jacket, stood out among the crowd.
There were still more than ten minutes before the morning assembly, and no one was seriously reading yet on the first day of school.
The first person to greet Yu Xinqiao was a boy with a shaved head. He was drinking milk from a bag and sat straddling the chair in the front row, grinning at Yu Xinqiao. ‘’Hello, my name is Liang Yi.’’
Later, Yu Xinqiao found out that this ordinary senior high school in a third-tier city was divided into circles, just like a workplace, and his friendly response on the first day of school silently placed him into Liang Yi’s camp.
When Liang Yi heard that he lived in the villa area, he widened his eyes and said, ‘’So you’re lowering yourself to hang out with us. You should be playing with Chen Yang and his group ah.’’
Yu Xinqiao had just learned from Liang Yi that Chen Yang was the class monitor and his father was the district chief.
‘’What, I can’t hang out with you guys?’’ Yu Xinqiao had an *easy-going personality and didn’t feel like hopping around in student cliques. ‘’Can I still drink this milk then?’’
TN: 随遇而安(at home wherever one is) is a Chinese idiom that means “to be content with whatever one may have, to adapt oneself to circumstances, to be easy-going”. It implies being able to deal with whatever life throws at you, without worrying too much about things that are beyond your control.
The milk was what Liang Yi had just taken out of his backpack, and it was still warm.”
“Of course, you can!” Liang Yi quickly pushed the milk back, “My family has plenty of food and drinks. Just let me know if you want anything to eat in the future!”
Yu Xinqiao thought Liang Yi was exaggerating, but during the morning break, he followed Liang Yi around the campus and walked into the crowded snack bar. He heard Liang Yi shout “Mom” to the middle-aged woman behind the counter.
Liang Yi also brought a few familiar classmates and introduced them to Yu Xinqiao.
It sounded like a serious scene of welcoming new members in a gangster movie, but because each male student lined up with a free snack bar sausage in hand, it looked a bit funny.
“From now on, Yu Xinqiao is one of us,” the gang leader Liang Yi mobilized everyone, “we share good fortune together and face difficulties together!”
Yu Xinqiao didn’t have an appetite, so he gave the sausage to a muscular male student.
As he watched him take a bite and the juice splashed onto the face of the male student opposite him, Yu Xinqiao couldn’t help but burst out laughing, the first laugh he had in Xuncheng.
On the way back to the classroom, Liang Yi told Yu Xinqiao that the muscular boy’s family owned a hardware store, and the one who was sprayed with sausage juice was the heir to the milk tea shop at the entrance. The most special one was probably a guy named Shen Da, whose family owned a store in a certain wholesale market in Xuncheng, specializing in musical instruments.
Yu Xinqiao asked, “Do you have a piano in your store?”
Shen Da shook his head, “No.”
“Then what instruments do you have?”
“Guitar, hulusi, saxophone, suona, African drum, ukulele.”
“That’s quite a wide variety.”
“Of course, it’s a ten-year-old store.”
Yu Xinqiao found that the reason they divided into small groups was not because of any disdain, but simply because they got along well. For example, everyone in this circle had parents who did business, and they had been influenced by it since childhood, all of them being social butterflies who could talk.
Back in the classroom, the homeroom teacher came to arrange the seating order.
Based on height, transfer student Yu Xinqiao was assigned to the third row from the back, near the aisle, and Liang Yi sat in front of him.
After settling in, they were ready for class.
Yu Xinqiao hadn’t received his new textbook yet and was bored, so he surveyed the entire classroom. The science class had more boys than girls, with most of the girls sitting in the front rows. It was only halfway through the morning, but he could already name one-third of his classmates.
His gaze swept over the empty seat in the last row near the window, and he poked Liang Yi’s back with a pen, “Xiao Yi, is that seat still available?”
Liang Yi shuddered, “Not even my mom calls me that…” he turned his head to look and couldn’t help but express his longing, “The back row by the window, Wang’s homeland.”
TN: Wang – king
He heard that someone had already taken that seat last semester, and Yu Xinqiao was about to ask who was so arrogant when the bell rang and the teacher walked into the classroom.
Yu Xinqiao put away his pencil and leaned back in his chair, planning to take a nap.
There was a physical education class in the afternoon, and Liang Yi said that the sports teacher’s attendance roster was probably not updated yet. Yu Xinqiao, a transfer student who hated sports, decided to hide in the classroom and continue sleeping.
The windows and doors were closed, and the room was so quiet that only his own breathing could be heard.
He didn’t know how long he had been sleeping, but in a daze, Yu Xinqiao’s right ear caught the sound of tapping on the glass.
Not too light nor too heavy, three knocks woke Yu Xinqiao up. He turned his head and leaned on his left ear, but as soon as he adjusted his posture, he heard three more urgent knocks from his left ear.
He had no choice but to sit up and open his eyes, looking towards the window. In his blurry vision, he saw an arm wearing a school uniform, with distinct knuckles and a raised index finger, pointing towards the classroom door.
The door was locked by Yu Xinqiao, so he sighed and stood up, pushing the chair and wobbling towards the classroom door.
With a click, Yu Xinqiao opened the door, the person was already standing at the entrance. The tall and slender figure cast a deep shadow over Yu Xinqiao.
“This person is so tall…” Yu Xinqiao muttered to himself as he stepped back to make way, but he accidentally stepped on a round ball pen that someone had dropped on the ground. His foot slipped, and he fell forward due to inertia.
When his forehead hit a soft and moderately hard “human wall,” Yu Xinqiao was still dazed.
As he swayed and raised his head, he met the overexposed yet still delicately contoured face, and his consciousness disappeared somewhere.
Holding his breath was purely a reflex. Yu Xinqiao heard himself saying, “I’m sorry… *you please come in.”
您 (nín) – polite form of you
The last class in the afternoon was self-study.
Yu Xinqiao asked Liang Yi for a piece of draft paper, drew black and white keys, and played “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on it.
In his heart, he sang, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, everywhere you are, please come in.”
You~ please~ come in~
As he finished singing, Yu Xinqiao turned his head to look back, and saw a person sitting in the southwest corner of the classroom where there was originally no one.
That person had long legs, which were somewhat cramped under the desk, and their arms were folded on the table with their face buried in the crook of their arm, apparently sleeping.
Yu Xinqiao looked around for a while, suddenly feeling like an ancient brothel patron, staring at a courtesan behind a screen, drooling over her.
…A little vulgar.
In the end, Yu Xinqiao nudged Liang Yi and lowered his voice to ask, “What’s the name of the person sitting by the window in the back row?”
Liang Yi wasn’t studying either. He put the novel he had been reading on his desk and turned his head slightly to use a whisper to say three words.
“Xu Yan what?” Yu Xinqiao didn’t hear clearly and wondered why the boy had chosen such a name.
“‘Xu’ from Lin Zexu’s ‘Xu’, and ‘Yan’ from the side of the word ‘yan’ in the proverb.” Liang Yi felt for the first time that his expressive ability was insufficient. “*Huan, which ‘huan’ is it?”
林则徐(Lin Zexú) 徐 + 谚语(yànyǔ) 谚 = 徐谚(Xú Yàn)
huán – written in pinyin
Yu Xinqiao leaned in to listen, “huánhuán?”
TN: YXQ uses ‘嬛’ which is used to form people’s names and can’t be used as a standalone, but the ML’s character is ‘洹’. The pronunciation is the same for both.
Liang Yi suddenly shuddered and didn’t care about studying anymore. He raised his voice and said, “Don’t call him that. Shen Da called him that last time and he got a scar on his forehead.”
Yu Xinqiao was surprised, “He hit someone?”
“Not really. I wasn’t there at the time, but apparently Xu Yanhuan glared fiercely at Shen Da and scared him so much he turned and ran, tripping over a brick on the ground.”
Yu Xinqiao laughed as he listened, “Well, you can’t blame him.”
The next day during break, with Liang Yi’s explanation, Yu Xinqiao found out there was a person in their class who was outside of all the circles.
“It seems like Xu Yanhuan doesn’t have any friends and always keeps to himself. Nobody knows where he lives.” Liang Yi sneaked a glance towards the back of the classroom and quickly retracted his gaze. “He’s often late or absent from class, and sometimes he has bruises on his face. We suspect he has connections with the underworld and maybe he often helps them fight.”
Yu Xinqiao thought this speculation was unreliable, “Skipping class and fighting, isn’t the school doing anything?”
“They are. I remember last semester he skipped class for three days, and when he came back, the homeroom teacher kicked him out of the classroom, reported him to the school administration, and gave him a punishment. He had to reflect at home and only came back to class after half a month.” Liang Yi shrugged. “If his grades weren’t good, he probably would have been expelled by the school a long time ago.”
But Yu Xinqiao thought that Xu Yanhuan was more than just good grades.
In fact, in the seventeen years that Yu Xinqiao had lived, he had friends all over the world, but he had never seen anyone like Xu Yanhuan – someone who was a scholar but could also fight, who was cold but also fierce, who had no friends but received countless love letters from girls.
Less than three days into the new school year, Yu Xinqiao, who was sitting by the window next to the corridor, had already helped deliver a lot of things – textbooks, pencil cases, and novels – not to mention various pretty envelopes with Xu Yanhuan’s name on them.
Even female classmates asked him to help deliver letters.
When the literary committee member, He Tangyue, who sat in front of him, was asked why she didn’t deliver the letter herself, she shook her ponytail and said with conviction, “If he didn’t even look at it and threw it in the trash, everyone would know that I was the one who sent it. How embarrassing! If he doesn’t agree, I’ll have to switch targets quickly.”
Yu Xinqiao: “… “
Yu Xinqiao, who received the task again, was already annoyed.
He was using his phone to search for places in Xuncheng where he could buy a piano, freeing up one hand to hand the letter to his classmate in the second row. The classmate was chatting enthusiastically with their desk mate and didn’t notice Yu Xinqiao waving his arm.
After calling out twice without a response, Yu Xinqiao suddenly stood up and faced the northwest corner of the classroom. “Huanhuan, you have a letter!” he shouted.
As soon as his words fell, the previously noisy classroom was as if someone had pressed the pause button, suddenly becoming completely silent.
Yu Xinqiao’s loud shout of “Huanhuan” seemed to reverberate in the stillness.
And in this eerie atmosphere of silence being more significant than sound, Yu Xinqiao saw the person in the back row corner, who could sleep better than him, slowly raise their head, revealing a face he didn’t get a chance to look at carefully last time.
And the eyes that looked directly at him, just as indifferent as he remembered, but not fierce.
Suddenly he remembered the phrase, “The back row by the window, Wang’s homeland.”
Upon further thought, it didn’t make much sense, as the back row by the window on the first floor was clearly more convenient for the class teacher to come and go.
But…Yu Xinqiao swallowed a mouthful of saliva and couldn’t help but silently acknowledge in his heart that this face was indeed quite wang-like.
And in the half-minute of endless thoughts in Yu Xinqiao’s head, “Wang” stood up from his seat, took long strides through the crowd, and walked to the row near the corridor.
Looking down at the pink envelope in the person’s hand, Xu Yanhuan calmly frowned as if he had encountered some trouble.
He asked without much intonation, “Did you write this?”
As we all know, “wang” is an adjective.
Lin Zexu (1785-1850) was a prominent Chinese official during the Qing Dynasty. He is best known for his role in the First Opium War (1839-1842), during which he was appointed by the Qing government to suppress the opium trade. Lin’s actions included the confiscation and destruction of large quantities of opium, leading to tensions between China and Britain and eventually to war. Despite his efforts, China was defeated in the conflict and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, which included significant territorial and economic concessions to Britain. Lin was later exiled by the Qing government for his role in the conflict, but he is still remembered in China as a patriotic hero who stood up to foreign aggression.
That explanation about XYH’s name fried some of my braincells honestly.