Lin Wuyu thought for a few minutes, then cleared his throat: “Is it…Chicken Bro?”

Looking at how you’re going to scam people.

Lin Wuyu didn’t speak, only smiling. He glanced at the swindler again before turning his head back.

“Keep going,” the idiot said.

The swindler didn’t say anything. Lin Wuyu could feel his gaze on his back.

When it came to scamming people, the scammer would definitely not want to have anyone other than the victim on the scene. But he had no intentions to leave, either. He really did want to hear what would happen next.

“Hey, keep going,” the idiot said. After a pause, he added in a low voice, “Why worry about that person? If he wants to listen, let him listen…don’t worry, if you’re not accurate I won’t tell you.”

“Don’t!” The swindler raised his voice at once. “You’d better tell me.”

Lin Wuyu lowered his head and laughed.

“You had your first relationship last year, right?” the swindler asked.

“…Right.” There was astonishment in the idiot’s voice.

“You’ve been in a relationship?” The swindler’s assistant was also very shocked. “There are girls that are naive out there?”

“What do you mean?” The idiot was offended. “Can I not have people like me? Also, isn’t it not good to judge people by their appearances? Besides, Chicken Bro’s [1] so handsome but no one likes him either…”

“If you don’t know how to speak, shut up,” the swindler said. He paused, then said, “If you don’t change what you call me in your next words, I’ll predict that all your teeth are going to fall out tonight.”

The assistant laughed so hard that he choked on his own spit.

Lin Wuyu suppressed his own laughter.

“What do you want him to predict? Hurry up and ask,” the assistant said between laughs.

“I just want to ask when my next relationship will be,” the idiot said.

“I can’t tell,” the swindler said.

“How come?” the idiot asked. “Can’t you just make something up?”

“Who do you think you are, asking me to make something up for you to be happy?” The swindler thought it was below his dignity, even adding another attack after pausing for two seconds. “I can’t tell when you’re going to be in a relationship again, just that in the next two years, you won’t have anyone to be in a relationship with.”

“Fuck.” The idiot looked pained. “Is that real or fake?”

“If you believe it, it’s real.” The assistant’s words were sincere and earnest. “Wait two years to verify it…if you can still find us in two years.”

Lin Wuyu laughed noiselessly for a while and didn’t listen to any more of the conversation behind him. The swindler had stopped his deceptions too. There was nothing interesting about listening to the idiot be depressed.

There was still a whole pile of study materials waiting for him in his mind.

He pushed Chicken Bro out of his brain.

After Chen-laosi [2] left, Liu Jinpeng kept wanting to get up and leave too. Da-Dong [3] and the others were tuning a speaker in the empty space by a few flowerbeds, and he wanted to go over and play with it.

But Ding Ji had no intentions of moving, so he could only sit there motionlessly, turning his head and looking over from time to time.

“You can go over there yourself. Stop sitting here blankly with me,” Ding Ji spoke up. “Just don’t tell them I came. I want to sit for a while.”

“Okay.” Liu Jinpeng jumped up at once, but he quickly sat back next to him. Looking at the person who had been staring into space idly the whole time, he whispered, “There’s nothing wrong with that person, right?”

“He’s a first-rate student with hurt feelings. What could be wrong with him?” Ding Ji said.

Liu Jinpeng stared at him for a while: “You’re so fucking vicious.”

“Go, go.” Ding Ji waved him away.

Liu Jinpeng leapt down the stairs and ran over to Da-Dong and the others.

Ding Ji fixed his gaze on the back of the person’s head in front of him. This person seemed like he had entered a meditative state. He hadn’t moved for nearly ten minutes.

He hesitated and looked around him before he picked up a small piece of cement that had crumbled off from who knows where, aimed it at the step next to the person’s right hand, and flicked it over.

He frequently tossed things into the trash from a distance and he could generally get them in. He was very confident in his accuracy.

But the moment the cement piece was flicked, it broke into two tinier pieces.

One tiny piece landed in its intended place, the step next to the person’s hand.

The other tiny piece landed on the person’s head.

Furthermore, it didn’t bounce off.

Just like that, it serenely stopped on his head.

Lin Wuyu raised a hand and felt his head.

When he saw the cement fragment in his hand, he froze, then turned.

He didn’t know when it had happened, but there was only one person left out of the three people behind him. It was the swindler called Chicken Bro, who was currently looking at him.

Lin Wuyu didn’t feel very strongly about this sort of provocation, only flicking the cement piece back to Chicken Bro’s hand while he was at it, then asking: “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.” Chicken Bro lowered his head and looked at the cement that had returned to his hand. “Your aim isn’t bad.”

Lin Wuyu’s studying train of thought had already been disrupted, so he didn’t turn back and continue, still gazing at him. “Do you charge?”

“What?” Chicken Bro furrowed his brows. 

“Just…fortune-telling,” Lin Wuyu said. “How much is it?”

He didn’t know what style of jianghu swindler Chicken Bro was, but in any case, when he heard the four words “how much is it,” his expression suddenly changed: “What did you say?”

Lin Wuyu gazed at him wordlessly.

“Do you know who I am?” He pointed at himself.

Lin Wuyu thought for a few minutes, then cleared his throat: “Is it…Chicken Bro?”

Chicken Bro froze first, opening his mouth but unable to form words for a long time. After a while, he suddenly laughed: “If you were anyone else, you’d be dead where you stand, you know.”

Lin Wuyu lifted the corner of his mouth, repressing a smile.

“The unaware are innocent. Go ahead and laugh, it’s fine.” Chicken Bro slid down a step, sitting behind him. He stretched out a hand, his tone kind while the contents were harsh. “My name is Ding Ji, the ji from ‘light breeze and clear moon.’ [4] You can just use my name. If you call me by the wrong one again, I’ll beat you up right away into the most brilliant electric spinning top tonight.”

Ji-ge ah…

Lin Wuyu didn’t answer his harsh words. He shook his hand and returned to the previous subject: “So you don’t charge, right?”

“I don’t charge!” Ding Ji looked impatient. “What do you want?”

“Make a prediction for me?” Lin Wuyu stretched his left hand out before him.

“No,” Ding Ji said.

“Do you not predict for strangers?” Lin Wuyu laughed.

Ding Ji squinted, looking at him silently.

“It’s hard to fool them if you’re not familiar with them?” Lin Wuyu said.

“You went through a breakup.” Ding Ji slapped his hand away, gazing at him. “It happened sometime this week.”

Lin Wuyu gazed at him too.

“Did I guess right?” Ding Ji asked.

“You were half-right,” Lin Wuyu replied honestly.

“Your crush didn’t work out,” Ding Ji said.

“Mm.” Lin Wuyu nodded. “You can guess without looking at my hand?”

“I already said it was a guess, why would I need to look at your hand?” Ding Ji’s mouth twitched disdainfully. “Want to hear more?”

“No,” Lin Wuyu answered bluntly.

He really didn’t have anything he wanted to ask. For the things he wanted to know, he would look for answers himself. He didn’t necessarily need a stranger to tell him, without any way to verify its authenticity.

If he truly had something to ask, it would only be him making idle conversation and chatting with Ding Ji for a few more lines.

But the night wasn’t young anymore. If he rushed back now, by the time he got back to school it would be about when the evening study sessions ended, and he wouldn’t be able to buy barbecue.

It was a little disappointing.

Ding Ji stayed in the small park until around 11 o’clock. Only when there weren’t very many people around him did he jump down the steps.

It wasn’t the weekend today, and Da-Dong’s singing didn’t have many listeners. Liu Jinpeng went with them as they switched spots.

Very unfaithfully, he only sent a message to inform him.

When Ding Ji looked over, they were already gone.

He stretched lazily. He should go back. His father was probably still at his grandmother’s house, but if he didn’t go back now, his grandparents would get worried.

But when he came home, he unexpectedly found that his father had already left.

There was only his not-yet-asleep grandfather in the room, holding a teapot and watching TV.

When he saw him come in, his grandfather poured tea into the teacup in front of him: “You’re back?”

“Mm.” Ding Ji sat next to him. He accepted the tea and drank a sip, leaning into the sofa.

“You didn’t expect this, right?” his grandfather said, smiling. “Do you regret not coming back earlier?”

“Why would I regret it? I was having so much fun that I didn’t want to come back,” Ding Ji said.

“I persuaded your dad to leave.” His grandfather patted his leg. “You haven’t gone to school for two days, right? Go to class tomorrow, and come home directly when school is over. Don’t mess around before the exam. Study well.”

Ding Ji didn’t utter a word.

“Your parents don’t really want to manage you, either,” his grandfather said. “But you’re such a smart kid, after all, and your studies are…”

“Don’t speak nonsense.” Ding Ji cut off his grandfather’s words. “If I really was smart, I wouldn’t be like this.”

“You’re such an idiot, after all.” His grandfather switched his wording without thinking. “How can you not keep your mind on your studies?”

Ding Ji laughed, then sighed: “Alright, stop talking in circles. Drink your tea. I’m going to sleep.”

He was definitely going to go to school. He hadn’t grabbed this week’s newly-issued exam papers yet.

Furthermore, he went very early. When he got to school, the gates weren’t even open.

Furrowing his brows, Ding Ji took out his phone and glanced at it. His half-asleep grogginess disappeared at once.

“The fuck?” he said in shock, standing by the window of the security station.

“What’s wrong, did you misread the time?” asked the security guard, leaning against the window with a smile.

“Mm.” Ding Ji was a little discouraged, setting the clock on his phone screen back to numbers.

Was this called being smart? He could even misread an analog clock.

“Did you eat breakfast?” the man asked.

“I did,” Ding Ji answered dully.

“Go in.” The man opened the door. “There are quite a few third years living at school who get up around this time and go to their classrooms.”

“Not bad, Uncle.” Ding Ji looked at him. This uncle had just assumed his position for two months. “How did you tell that I’m a third year?”

“I recognize you, Ding Qi,” the man said. “There’s a picture of you on the public announcement board.”

For Ding Ji, he didn’t feel strongly about being called by the wrong name. From elementary school, he’d had many names: Ding Qi, Ding Yuqi, Ding Wen, Ding whatever. There were even some blind people calling him Ding Lin.

He smiled at the man and went through the gates.

The third row from the back of the classroom was a wonderful place.

Even if it was a school like San Zhong [5] that was constantly fighting with Fu Zhong [6] for student enrollment rates, the third row from the back had a lot of style.

For instance, Ding Ji’s deskmate Shi Xiangyang had placed a piece of cake on his desk and was currently using a knife, meticulously cutting it into smaller pieces.

He cut them over and over again. It looked like his goal was to keep cutting until they were one centimeter wide.

In reality, this size was very hard to achieve. Even before this, the cake had already more or less crumbled.

A state of anxiety.

That was what He-laoshi [7] called it.

There were always a few people in the back row unwilling to switch seats, so those in severe states of anxiety were densely distributed, seen left and right.

He didn’t want to think about the one biting his fingernails to his left for now.

“I’ve got a question.” Ding Ji took out a physics workbook from his backpack.

“Mm.” Shi Xiangyang nodded.

Ding Ji chose an easy one: “Explain this problem to me.”

Shi Xiangyang regained some liveliness. By the time he finished explaining the problem, he had finished the cake on his desk.

Ding Ji wasn’t necessarily trying to help him. It was just that he’d heard that there was a person at Ba Zhong [8] who had gone mad before an exam and stabbed his deskmate seven or eight times.

While Shi Xiangyang was a rectangular strongman with both a height and weight of 196.

This was considered saving himself.

Every day was the same length, but how long a day felt tended to vary.

For instance, as he stayed at school today, the time passed very quickly because he had to go to “his own house” tonight. If time had legs, he could almost rush over and tug at them to give him a discount.

In fact, he had still been living at school last semester, with quite a lot of freedom. But his father had felt that his freedom had grown too much, forcing him to leave his dorm and come home.

Most of the time, the moment he opened the door, he could smell the aroma of food and see his parents’ smiles. It was pretty nice.

He just wasn’t free.

Ding Ji had spent too little time with the two of them. If he stretched, they could barely be considered familiar strangers. Two years ago, they weren’t even familiar.

He could roughly see them once during the new year, but the younger the child, the harder it was to keep their memories fresh. The next time they met, he had long forgotten them.

“You’re back,” his mother shouted from the dining room, then turned her head and called out to the cooking auntie, “Liu-jie, [9] you can set the table.”

Ding Ji threw his backpack on the sofa and went to wash his hands.

The dishes on the table were all things he liked: tomatoes and scrambled eggs, five-flavored duck. There was even steam minced pork and rib soup. Every time he came home, it was more or less these main dishes, with one or two other rotating dishes.

This menu hadn’t been changed in two or three years, ever since his parents came back to China and asked his grandmother about the dishes he liked.

Sometimes, Ding Ji couldn’t really understand the way their brains worked.

Even if he liked eating them, after two or three years, he was probably sick of it.

But when he was asked what dishes he liked, he couldn’t say.

He wasn’t picky, and he didn’t avoid certain foods.

For him, he didn’t really necessarily have any dishes he loved and simply had to eat that could improve relations. He had just gotten used to eating the food his grandmother made.

“Is it good?” his mother asked. 

“Mm, it’s good.” Ding Ji nodded. 

“Did you go to school today?” his father asked.

“I did,” Ding Ji answered, eating with his head down. In his peripheral vision, he saw the two of them simultaneously let out a breath.

“You still have to focus,” his father said. “I called your He-laoshi. You’ve been cutting classes too much these days, and your test scores have all been dropping…”

“Mm,” Ding Ji answered agreeably, wanting to use this sort of positive attitude to cut off their words.

But it didn’t work.

“You’ve always been smart,” his father continued, “always known as the smart kid…of course, your current grades aren’t necessarily worse when compared to others, but you clearly can be better, you…”

Ding Ji ladled a couple spoonfuls of tomatoes and scrambled eggs into his bowl, mixed it with rice, lowered his head, and finished off his food in a few bites. Setting his bowl aside, he stood up.

“Where are you going?” His mother gazed at him.

“To study.” Ding Ji walked over to the couch and grabbed his backpack.

“You’re in a mood again,” his father said.

“Let the kid finish eating before you start talking,” Liu-jie sighed. “We never lecture our children at the dinner table. They won’t be able to eat well.”

“He can only listen to us say a few things during dinner,” his mother sighed too. “His grandparents aren’t as wordy as we are, and look at how this child turned out in the end…”

Ding Ji suddenly added force as he was walking into his room and closing the door. With a bang, his door slammed shut.

He stood blankly behind the door for a while, then sat down before his desk.

He had been a little lazy recently. He rubbed his stomach. He’d eaten too quickly just now, and he was a bit bloated.

But being lazy was his normal state. After some time he would feel too tired. Other than having fun, he had no interest in doing anything else.

So his grades had continuously risen and fallen, just like waves.

He lacked willpower and the ability to concentrate. He didn’t have efficient study methods, either.

He was sloppy, but unwilling to change.

In summary, he didn’t really think he was that smart, and disliked it when people said he was smart. He simply wasn’t good enough for the word smart.

…He’d better study.

He took a science practice problem out of his backpack, leaned against the desk, pillowed his head on his arms and started to work.

“You’re not eating dinner at the dining hall?” Chen Mang looked at Lin Wuyu. “You’re getting wilder and wilder.”

“I have a bit of a headache.” Lin Wuyu massaged his temples. “I’m going to go out for a stroll and eat something good while I’m at it.”

“Remember to bring some back,” Chen Mang immediately stated.

“I might come back early today,” Lin Wuyu said. “So I won’t bring back barbecue.”

“Us freeloaders don’t care about that much, as long as we have something to eat,” Chen Mang said.

Lin Wuyu laughed.

A few days ago when he went to the mini-park, he had seen a cutely-decorated shop across the street called “Even Dogs Come.” He didn’t feel like crossing the street so he didn’t go.

Today, he planned to take a look on his stroll. Maybe there would be good food, and his head would stop hurting after he ate it.

Maybe there would even be dogs he could pet.

Full of expectations, Lin Wuyu went to the mini-park.

Even Dogs Come.

It was a small coffee shop.

There really were dogs, three of them, with little signs around their neck. Liuliu, Langlang, Gougou. [10]

But this wasn’t the important part. The important part was that all the tables in the shop were single tables, with one chair.

The words written on the table—alas, single dog. [11]

But the overlapping pictures pasted on the wall were all of lovey-dovey couples.

Lin Wuyu felt like he had suffered serious damage, turning and leaving without even petting a dog.

His head throbbed painfully.

Lin Wuyu bought a box of painkillers at the pharmacy by the mini-plaza. When he walked past the square wanting to go to the supermarket across from it to buy some water for his medicine, he saw Chicken…Ding Ji on the stairs.

“What are the odds?” Ding Ji raised his left eyebrow.

Today, Ding Ji didn’t have his scamming assistant by his side, and the enthusiastic idiot wasn’t there, either. It was just him.

“Did you not predict whether I would come?” Lin Wuyu’s head still hurt relentlessly.

“I didn’t.” Ding Ji gazed at him. “If I had, I would have brought a bottle of water for you.”

Lin Wuyu glanced at him, stopping.

“Headache?” Ding Ji asked, a hint of a smile emerging in the corner of his mouth, carrying a bit of pride.

Lin Wuyu didn’t speak, looking back at the direction he had come from.

“I have water here.” Ding Ji fished out a large glass bottle from behind him. “I just drank from it, though…”

“Let me guess,” Lin Wuyu said.

“Hm?” Ding Ji froze.

“You saw me leave last time, and most people go home at that time, indicating that the direction where I live is…” He pointed behind Ding Ji. “…over there.”

Ding Ji held the large glass bottle, not saying anything.

“But today I came from the opposite direction, and when I came over I pressed my temples roughly three times, likely due to a headache, and a rather severe one at that.” Lin Wuyu rubbed his temples again. “So I might have gone to buy medicine to dull the pain. There’s only one pharmacy around the mini-plaza…if you hadn’t seen me come over, you probably wouldn’t have been able to calculate it.”

Ding Ji still didn’t say anything, looking at him.

“Actually, just to be safe, it would’ve been more fitting to ask if it was a headache. After all, I could’ve asked the pharmacy workers for a cup of water to take my medicine.” Lin Wuyu thought for a moment. “But asking me about water first had a better result. In any case, if you got it wrong, you still had the headache in your pocket. Even if you got the headache wrong, it didn’t matter, because I don’t know you.”

“You fucker,” Ding Ji said.

“Did I guess correctly?” Lin Wuyu asked.

“Yes,” Ding Ji said.

“Water.” Lin Wuyu stretched out his hand.

Ding Ji handed the large glass bottle over to him.


[1] The “ji” in Ding Ji’s name (霁) sounds like the “ji” in chicken (鸡), although with different tones, giving rise to this nickname.

[2] Laosi (老四) is a way to indicate birth order for children in a family. In this case, Chen-laosi means he’s the fourth child in his family. 

[3] The prefix da (大) means big and can be used to show respect.

[4] Light breeze and clear moon (光风霁月), pronounced guang feng ji yue, means a period of peace and prosperity, or a noble and benevolent character.  

[5] Schools in China are often numbered, and San Zhong (三中) means “third high school.”  

[6] Fu Zhong means affiliated high school, one that’s attached or associated with another academic institution, like a university.

[7] Laoshi (老师) means teacher.

[8] Eighth high school.

[9] Jie (姐) means older sister.

[10] Liu lang gou (流浪狗) means stray dog.

[11] Single dog (单身狗) is Internet slang for someone who’s not in a relationship.