At least Lin Wuyu liked men, but he was a straight guy.
When Lin Wuyu returned to his dorm, there was no one in it. Right now, they were probably all either at the dining hall or in the classrooms.
He ripped off the gauze on his face and looked in the mirror. The wound had already scabbed over and it looked alright, not too scary.
His phone buzzed.
Ding Ji had sent a message over.
— You should see the hospital or the infirmary again about your wound, don’t get it wet when you wash your face
— Then how do I wash it, rub it with a dry towel?
— With your IQ, you can still be called an academic god?
Laughing, Lin Wuyu entered the bathroom. He needed a shower.
But to deserve his academic god title, he turned on the faucet first and rinsed his mouth, then took a towel dipped in water to dab all around his cut, then, half-wiping and half-washing, washed his face.
After showering, he sent Chen Mang a message, asking Chen Mang to help him bring breakfast to the classroom.
He was hungry.
But he still had to take a trip to the infirmary first.
Usually Lin Wuyu wouldn’t be so careful, but after all he was about to take the gaokao. If he got an infection or some other problem came up it would be inconvenient.
In his three years at Fu Zhong, Lin Wuyu had only entered the school nurse’s office a total of two times. One time was when Xu Tianbo twisted his ankle when they were playing basketball together, and the other time was when Chen Mang was messing around with a broom and ended up poking himself in the eye due to his poor technique.
Today was his first time walking into the nurse’s office for himself.
Ever since knowing Ding Ji, his experiences had started sprinting toward strange places.
Fortune-telling, picking up a kid, having someone hugging his leg and shouting daddy, getting yelled at for a hundred consecutive meters, squatting next to shrubs and eating barbecue, being chased by thugs and even getting beat up, sleeping in a hospital’s registration lobby…
The school nurse on duty today was named Tao Rui. Even though he didn’t come often, he did know that.
“How did you get hurt?” Tao Rui recognized him, and was a little startled to see him.
“I got cut by the sharp end of a stick,” Lin Wuyu said. “Got scratched last night.”
“Playing hero?” Tao Rui examined his cut.
“No, an accidental injury.” Lin Wuyu chuckled.
“Not even gonna come up with a lie to fool me?” Tao Rui smiled. “Aren’t you afraid I’ll tell your Lin-laoshi?”
“I was watching others fight for fun,” Lin Wuyu fibbed on the spot.
Tao Rui laughed: “This lie of yours falls far short of your essays.”
Lin Wuyu smiled and said nothing.
“There aren’t any big issues. This probably got handled by a professional, right?” Tao Rui finished looking at his cut and dusted off her hands. “There’s basically no inflammation or swelling or anything right now.”
“Mm, I’m just here to get put at ease,” Lin Wuyu said.
It was mainly to put Ding Ji at ease. When they were chatting at the cafe, Ding Ji’s gaze would sweep across his cut every thirty seconds on average.
“Then you can be at ease, it’s fine,” Tao Rui said. “If it’s red or swollen or itchy or whatever, come find me.”
“Thank you,” Lin Wuyu said.
After leaving the nurse’s office, he sent Ding Ji a message.
“Wait for me, I have to read a text.” Ding Ji was leaning against the corridor railing on the phone.
“Read it after we’re done talking!” Liu Jinpeng said. “Who’s sending you important messages when you’re on the phone with me?”
“Piss off, you’re thinking too much.” Ding Ji held his phone in front of him.
— I went to the nurse’s office to get it checked out, my cut is fine
— Don’t eat barbecue for now
Ding Ji quickly responded.
— Got it
Done looking at Lin Wuyu’s reply, he brought his phone back to his ear: “This thing is already like this, Lao Liu looking for me was definitely because Baldy told him to.”
“I feel like something’s off,” Liu Jinpeng said. “Normally, Lao Liu would absolutely not dare to lie and say he called you to go fight. You tricked his little brother and ran out of self preservation, and you even got beat up. Does he really have to make Lao Liu look for you everywhere over this small thing?”
“Do you think there’s something else?” Ding Ji asked.
Even though Liu Jinpeng’s brain was placed in his house’s bucket and not brought outside most of the time, he had started mingling outside since middle school, so his experience in this field could be considered extremely rich, and Ding Ji would usually listen to his ideas.
“I can’t figure it out right now. I can only say that for the thing with Lao Liu and Baldy, it definitely isn’t a simple case of ‘I’ll beat you up and it’s over,'” Liu Jinpeng said. “Don’t worry about it. For this period of time don’t come this way, just study. I’ve known you all these years but I’ve never seen you be this hardworking.”
“Don’t stir up trouble,” Ding Ji told him. “If something happens there’s no one who can help you right now, Da Dong and those other performers aren’t reliable at all.”
“Relax, who am I?” Liu Jinpeng laughed, then thought for a second and lowered his voice, “Hey, it’s not that somebody having something to do with Baldy, huh?”
“Which somebody?” Ding Ji asked.
“Your new friend!” Liu Jinpeng was a little angry. “What dirt do you have on him to mingle with him every day, eating out and drinking wine and having late night snacks, you little ungrateful thing.”
“What sort of tone is this?” Ding Ji cracked up. “You sound like my wife or something.”
“Forget it, with a wife like me, your grandma would turn me into a voodoo doll before we even got a certificate,” Liu Jinpeng said.
“I’ll tell you my dirt on Lin Wuyu,” Ding Ji said.
“Say it.” Liu Jinpeng was very interested.
“He’s Fu Zhong’s academic god,” Ding Ji said. “The zhuangyuan-to-be of this year’s gaokao.”
“Fuck.” Liu Jinpeng was startled. “This has got to be my first time hearing this kind of ‘dirt.’ I almost didn’t understand.”
“A slacker like you?” Ding Ji laughed for a long time. “Alright, I won’t keep you much longer. Stay safe, and if anything comes up give me a call.”
“I won’t call, focus on your studies,” Liu Jinpeng said. “He’s the zhuangyuan-to-be, but you’ve got to at least go to college, huh?”
“Mm.” Ding Ji responded seriously.
“Don’t just mm at me.” Lao Lin’s arms were crossed, looking Lin Wuyu up and down. “You’re very suspicious.”
“It really was just an accident,” Lin Wuyu said. “I went to the nurse’s office today and Doctor Tao said it was fine.”
“I’m not talking about the cut.” Lao Lin leaned closer to him, finger prodding his chest. “You youngster. I went to the dorm yesterday to find you, and Xu Tianbo and Chen Mang and the others even covered for you, saying you were asleep. If you hadn’t cut your face, I really wouldn’t have known you hadn’t gone back to the dorm all night, hm?”
“Why were you looking for me?” Lin Wuyu asked. “Calling me could’ve worked too.”
“I didn’t want to disturb your mood, and you wouldn’t do anything bad either. If you had gone out on a date, wouldn’t a call from me ruin the mood?” Lao Lin said.
“…Then why were you looking for me?” Lin Wuyu asked again.
“Your dad contacted me yesterday, about your applications,” Lao Lin said.
“I’ve got plenty of time, but also, this shouldn’t have anything to do with him, right,” Lin Wuyu said. “It’s not like I’ll listen to his suggestions anyway.”
“When all’s said and done, every school wants to snatch people up, especially people like you, so families will definitely be very cautious.” Lao Lin started smiling. “Although I told your dad the same thing. I said, ‘With Lin Wuyu’s personality, once he gets an idea I’m afraid he won’t listen to anyone else.'”
“Mm.” Lin Wuyu nodded.
“But when you fill out the application you have to talk it over with me.” Lao Lin looked at him.
“Don’t worry.” Lin Wuyu smiled.
Ding Ji hadn’t slept well for three days in a row. When he wanted to sleep, he would be completely awake when he thought of Lin Wuyu’s shining, sparkly grades.
It wasn’t entirely motivation either.
Ding Ji faintly felt like he was back when he was a child, worried that he didn’t fit into the expectations that people had designed for him.
At such times, he would remember Lin Wuyu’s words over and over.
You don’t have to prove anything. You don’t have to prove that you’re a prodigy, and you don’t have to prove that you’re not.
If Lin Wuyu found that he was thinner after not seeing him for a few days, even Grandma, who saw him every day, started to sense that he was becoming more and more miserable with each passing day.
Grandma’s operation was completed, and the doctor said it went very smoothly. These past few days she’d been recovering well too.
So Grandma started fussing about being discharged.
“Are you afraid that I can’t rest well?” Ding Ji held her hand. “The doctor said you have to stay at the hospital first. It’s unreasonable to fuss about going home right after the operation.”
“You’re as thin as human jerky now.” Grandma frowned. “You’ve never been this thin since you were a child.”
“Didn’t you say that when I was born, I was 3.9 kilograms,” Ding Ji said.
“Don’t talk back to me,” Grandma said. “Isn’t it just a test? If you can take it, you take it. If you can’t, you can’t. Don’t burn yourself up.”
“The point is that I can take it,” Ding Ji said with a smile. Don’t worry, old lady.”
After chatting with Grandma for a while, Ding Ji ate dinner and left the ward with a book.
When deciding whether to go to the rooftop or the lounge to study, he chose to go out for a walk.
He’d let his brain work in a different environment.
After coming out the front entrance, he habitually fished out his phone, looked at it a few times, and sent a Moment.
— Dinnertime’s already over but there are still so many people here
Then he hesitated and put his phone back in his pocket.
He’d had no contact with Lin Wuyu in the past few days.
He had taken his phone out several times wanting to send a message to Lin Wuyu, but he also had absolutely nothing to say.
He usually wasn’t a person who could take the initiative to talk with others anyway. It was a busy period right now too, and everyone was holding their breath waiting for the exam to be over so they could suffocate…no, let out their breath. He didn’t want to bother Lin Wuyu.
In reality, he didn’t have any particular reasons to talk to Lin Wuyu.
It was just that he didn’t know why, but Lin Wuyu was different from everyone he knew. It was fun to chat with him, and to argue with him too. It was all very interesting.
It was like everyone else was a small single player game, and Lin Wuyu was a computer RPG game operating at an enormous level.
And it was the kind where he couldn’t log in after playing to his heart’s content once.
It was also like the disappointment of parting ways after cheerfully passing the novice village and leveling up fighting monsters, and never being able to go back.
In fact, if he really sent a pointless message to Lin Wuyu, Lin Wuyu probably wouldn’t ignore him, but he didn’t want to.
After all, every time they jokingly listed “Do you…”, he always would be startled to find that Lin Wuyu never pointed out fewer things than him.
It was too awkward.
At least Lin Wuyu liked men, but he was a straight guy.
A straight guy, unexpectedly letting Lin Wuyu fight to a draw with him? Outrageous.
Passing a small supermarket, Ding Ji went in and bought a lollipop, a milk-flavored one.
When he was younger, whenever he cried, Grandma would stuff a lollipop into his mouth. He could eat it with gusto for an afternoon, not biting it, just licking it slowly.
Grandpa had even praised him at that time, saying that this child had a patient nature and could persist in doing things.
He wasn’t totally sure if it was true. According to his own understanding, it was a sort of compulsion, like sucking his thumb. It might also be due to a lack of security.
Although he was loved dearly by his grandparents, aunt and uncle, and he had never seemed to feel like his life was lacking anything, the anxiety brought by his parents’ absence had been buried in his heart for more than ten years without disappearing, and it could never be made up.
This is what he had gradually discovered after growing up, so his feelings for his parents were complex.
His phone was ringing.
Ding Ji quickly took out his phone with some cheerfulness.
However, when he realized that it was a Wechat voice call and found that the caller was Da Dong, he felt another fit of boredom.
“Hello.” With a lollipop in his mouth, he answered the phone.
“Where are you?” Da Dong asked.
“On the way to Beijing to take the exam,” Ding Ji said. “What’s the matter?”
“Would it be convenient to meet?” Da Dong asked. “I’m at the mini plaza. You haven’t come in a long time, right?”
“It’s not convenient.” Ding Ji immediately went on alert, even though if Da Dong really had an issue, Liu Jinpeng would’ve let him know at once.
“Fuck, you’re really something.” Da Dong was a little pissed. “Are we even friends anymore!”
“Be strong, after a month we’ll still be good bros,” Ding Ji said. “If there’s really something, just why don’t you just let me know over the phone.”
“Alright. Don’t tell Liu Jinpeng about what I’m asking you,” Da Dong said.
“I can’t guarantee that,” Ding Ji said. “If you really mind, just don’t tell me.”
Da Dong hesitated but still opened his mouth: “Did he run into a bit of trouble recently?”
“I don’t know, he hasn’t said anything to me,” Ding Ji said.
“You two have such a good relationship. Why don’t you ask for me? He won’t answer my calls right now,” Da Dong said. “He borrowed money from me, and he said he’d pay it back in three days, but he hasn’t yet. What’s going on?”
Ding Ji froze.
Liu Jinpeng asked Da Dong for money?
This was a very mysterious thing.
Because everyone knew that Da Dong didn’t have money. He usually only got a bit of money from busking on the weekends, and even that was split among a few people. On weekdays, the spending power of the mini plaza couldn’t even compare to that of a roadside liangpi seller.
Liu Jinpeng asked Da Dong for money?
“How much did he borrow?” Ding Ji asked.
“Two thousand,” Da Dong said. “I’ll tell you this, I can’t even say he borrowed it, it was more or less like he snatched it. If I hadn’t known you two for a few years, I really would’ve called the cops.”
“Let me figure out what’s going on,” Ding Ji said. “If it’s real I’ll pay you back first.”
“I’m in an urgent spot for the money too, he said three days, but I haven’t asked him in five days…” Da Dong sighed.
“I’ll contact you later.” After hanging up, Ding Ji stood at the side of the road holding his phone for a long time, even forgetting to suck on his lollipop. He didn’t understand why Liu Jinpeng had done this, either.
But he could be certain that the money Liu Jinpeng had borrowed was more than two thousand. Two thousand wasn’t really a big amount, not worth “snatching” it from Da Dong, and moreover this money was definitely used in a huge rush.
Although Liu Jinpeng wanted Ding Ji not to visit the mini plaza, he still went, passing through the mini plaza directly to Liu Jinpeng’s place, because Liu Jinpeng wasn’t answering his calls either.
Liu Jinpeng had moved out of his uncle’s place last year, and he’d rented a little room behind the mini plaza.
Ding Ji knocked on the door for a long time, but Liu Jinpeng didn’t open it.
He looked around, plucked a thin iron wire from a bamboo broom in the hallway, folded it and poked it into the keyhole.
This sort of old-fashioned lock, in Ding Ji’s hands, was similar to how fast it would take to open it directly with the key.
When the lock opened, Liu Jinpeng’s voice floated over from the corner of the hallway: “Fuck! What are you doing?”
“Get in here for laozi, and if you run I’ll break your leg.” Ding Ji pointed at him and pushed open the door.
Da-ye sat upright on the table.
“Don’t think I don’t have the guts.” Lin Wuyu eyed it. “If you want to sleep then sleep on the table. Don’t sleep on people’s shoes all the time. Who spoiled you into this bad habit?”
“I did,” the shop owner said, smiling as he walked over, carrying a container of vanilla ice cream. “Just hold it. If you put it on the table I’m afraid it’ll eat it.”
“Thanks.” Lin Wuyu took the container.
It seemed like Even Dogs Come’s business wasn’t too great. It was Lin Wuyu’s second time coming this week, and there was no one in the shop. It might also be that the time wasn’t right.
Last time it was because he wanted to switch up his studying mood, passing by after buying clothes. This time it was because he really wanted to eat this vanilla ice cream, so he’d come just for this.
There weren’t many days before the gaokao, and he’d already started to slow his pace, not doing any more problems or memorizing books in large volumes. He could pretty much eat and sleep on time every day.
He had already prepped his guns, just waiting to go far away to a foreign land after the battle.
His phone buzzed. There was a new message.
When he saw that it was from Ding Ji, he was a little taken aback.
These past few days Ding Ji had probably been busy studying, and he hadn’t chatted with him for a while. His Moment-sharing rate was even lower.
It very much seemed like he was doing something big.
But this message of Ding Ji’s message seemed a little too polite, and at a glance he could tell something was up.
Moreover, it was the sort of thing that involved asking for help.
— Are you busy studying
He quirked the corner of his mouth and waited two minutes before responding.
— So busy
Ding Ji’s side went quiet.
Lin Wuyu had eaten half a container of ice cream. He was about to make a call and ask what was going on when he got an incoming call from Ding Ji.
He laughed and answered the phone.
“It doesn’t sound like you’re studying to me,” Ding Ji said on the other side.
He didn’t know why, but it seemed like his voice was a little hoarse to Lin Wuyu. He didn’t know if he’d been studying too hard.
“I have to strike a balance between work and rest ah,” Lin Wuyu said. “I’m eating ice cream to relax for a moment.”
“Why do I feel like you’re always resting,” Ding Ji said.
Lin Wuyu cracked up: “Why don’t I record a video of me studying someday so you can see whether I’m always resting or not?”
Ding Ji laughed, and after a pause he asked: “That cut of yours, how is it?”
“It’s more or less better.” Lin Wuyu patted his face. “The scab’s even started to fall off.”
“Is there any scarring?” Ding Ji immediately followed up.
“There’s some white marks, but it’ll definitely be gone after one or two months,” Lin Wuyu said.
“That’s good,” Ding Ji said.
And then it was quiet.
Lin Wuyu didn’t say anything either, waiting for him to cut to the point.
“That, uh,” Ding Ji said, “just, didn’t you say before that you could help me find a place to work?”
After being silent for a moment, Lin Wuyu opened his mouth to ask: “How much do you need?”
“What do you mean how much do you need?” Ding Ji asked.
“Money.” Lin Wuyu smiled. “Still playing dumb.”
“I’m not playing dumb.” Ding Ji smiled too.
“Say it.” Lin Wuyu reached out a hand and grabbed the mouth of an ice-cream-stealing Da-ye.
“How much can you loan me?” Ding Ji asked carefully.
Lin Wuyu let out a sigh: “I can loan you a hundred thousand. Do you dare to ask for it?”
None this time!