Qingchu won the next few rounds very smoothly. They passed all the way through and finally encountered a problem in the semi-finals.
The semi-finals required an original track with a compulsory theme.
Su Jing glanced at the topic and cursed: “Theme ‘school life’, fuck! Who’s coming up with these things? It’s not because I have lived a good school life that I’m here.”
“Xiao Xie should have an idea.” Sheng Kongzhi interjected, “Xiao Xie looks like a good boy who goes to school properly.”
Ji Sheng, who was slumped on the floor, propped himself up at once and asked with his head tilted, “Right, oh, Xiao Xie, hurry up and share with us so that we, the delinquents, can also be enlightened.”
The members of Qingchu looked at Xie Xuanming.
Xie Xuanming felt a lot of pressure.
It’s not that Qingchu deliberately put pressure on him, but the rest of the members really couldn’t help it——two of them went to school to play hooky, one of them entered the society directly after nine years of compulsory education, and the remaining one dropped out of school in the fifth grade and went to work to support his family.
For such a crooked bunch, it would be better to write about the underworld than about school.
Being stared at by all the members, Xie Xuanming was also a bit overwhelmed. He recalled his school life and recounted diligently: “Get up at 6:15, morning run at 6:25, breakfast at 6:50, then morning reading, memorise words from 7:30 to 8:00, go to class from 8:00 to 12:00. Ten minutes between classes are used to sort out wrong answers or ask teachers if you have questions…”
“Stop, stop, stop!” Ji Sheng cut off his schedule reiteration and said, hating iron for not being made of steel, “This is called school life, huh? It’s called the Shawshank Redemption! Xiao Xie, you really made the right choice coming to hang out with us!”
“Don’t lead Xiao Xie astray.” Sheng Kongzhi said helplessly, “However, although Xiao Xie’s school life is very… full, the audience will hardly like to listen to a song about it.”
“Hehe, right?” Su Jing sneered, “Take his school life as the background of the composition, and the song will be called ‘Persuasion’, guaranteeing that everyone will leave as soon as the music is played. It’s like evening self-study in my fucking second year of junior middle, there are people everywhere but in the classroom.”
The creative session of Qingchu ended without a result. They finally decided to adjourn and go back to work on their own ideas, and then gather again in a couple of days to see what happened.
As soon as the meeting ended, Su Jing and Ji Sheng jumped up and rushed to the rental house.
The old rotten flat was 40 or so square metres, with only one toilet and a faulty water tank, and those who washed afterwards were likely to be faced with the embarrassing situation of lathering up with shower gel and running out of water.
Sheng Kongzhi usually took a shower in the morning, and in the evening there was a big battle between Su Jing and Ji Sheng, who fought fiercely and refused to give way.
Today’s war ended with Su Jing’s victory. Su Jing, who wanted to take a shower and didn’t care about face, wisely bought a nightgown to take one less piece of clothing than Ji Sheng.
Ji Sheng watched as he slid into the bathroom like a loach, impotent and furious: “You fucking little girl, wearing a nightgown!”
“You fucking caveman, slow to move and not taking a shower.”
As Su Jing’s exasperated reply came from the bathroom, Ji Sheng slammed the door angrily, then suddenly thought of something, didn’t wrangle with him anymore, turned and went out without saying a word.
Thirty seconds later, the door of Xie Xuanming’s house was opened after being knocked on, and Ji Sheng appeared at the door with a bright smile.
“Xiao Xie, have you taken a shower yet?” He smiled like a weasel wishing Happy New Year to a chicken(1).
Xie Xuanming said quietly: “I washed in the morning, so you can use the bathroom.”
Ji Sheng’s eyes lit up, and after thanking him, he walked into the bathroom quickly.
The door closed, and the sound of water came from inside.
Xie Xuanming paused at the door for two seconds, then went back to the room, sat down, picked up the pen and continued to perfect the music he was writing.
He rewrote his scribbles absent-mindedly.
About five or six minutes later, Xie Xuanming caught Ji Sheng’s cry.
Xie Xuanming put down his pen and walked up to the bathroom. Ji Sheng poked his wet head out of the door, his hair covered in bubbles.
He said, “My pyjamas fell on the floor and got wet, so can you lend me something to wear?”
“Okay.” Xie Xuanming went back to his room, took out a white t-shirt from the drawer, walked back and handed it to Ji Sheng.
Ji Sheng stretched out his hand to take it, bubbles sliding from the top of his head to his collarbone.
The door closed.
Xie Xuanming stood outside for a while, touching his nose in embarrassment.
His waist was so white, was it because it didn’t usually get to see the sun?
Ji Sheng took a shower, changed his clothes and wiped his hair.
Instead of leaving, he walked into Xie Xuanming’s room with a big grin, put his hand on his shoulder, leaned over and asked curiously, “What are you writing?”
“School life theme?”
“Are you inspired?”
“No…“ Xie Xuanming couldn’t help but raise his head, “Brother Ji, water is dripping from your head on my body.”
When he said this, another drop of water fell and landed on his cheek.
“Sorry, sorry.” Ji Sheng apologised, wiped the dripping water with his thumb and straightened.
The scent of shampoo was gone; Xie Xuanming quietly took two deep breaths to erase the weird feeling in his heart.
Ji Sheng didn’t leave, but sat down on his bed smugly and wiped his head, as if he was going to stay here.
Xie Xuanming paused for a while and finally turned his head: “Won’t you go back?”
“I don’t want to go back.” Ji Sheng muttered, “I have to quarrel with Su Jing again when I go back, and I don’t want to quarrel with him.”
Xie Xuanming remembered the scenes of his scuffles with Su Jing, full of sharp teeth and sharp claws, and couldn’t help but doubt the authenticity of Ji Sheng’s words “I don’t want to quarrel with him.”
But in the end Xie Xuanming only said: “Brother Su is indeed, generally quarrelsome.”
Who knew that with this sentence he poked Ji Sheng’s sore spot. He slapped his thigh and said passionately: “It’s not that I can’t quarrel with him!”
Xie Xuanming was fortunate enough to have witnessed Su Jing’s battle in an Internet cafe where he fought one against eight, beating a group of keyboard warriors into obedience to the point of them not even daring to open their mouths.
Therefore, he again questioned the authenticity of Ji Sheng’s words and said “hmm” in embarrassment.
Ji Sheng continued to argue: “I’m just letting him go. You can’t tell his age, but that kid is actually just half a year older than you, and he’s still like underage… Don’t call him brother in the future, don’t let him take advantage.”
“Okay.” Xie Xuanming said obediently.
Ji Sheng continued to mutter: “I respect the elderly and love the young. With children like you, I can’t bear to be really angry. I’m just spoiling…”
Speaking of this, Ji Sheng suddenly remembered something.
“That’s right.” Ji Sheng jerked the towel away; the half-dry hair on the top of his head swayed twice and fell softly, “This is for you.”
He took out a small package from his pyjamas pocket and stuffed it into Xie Xuanming’s hand.
Xie Xuanming opened his hand and took a look. There was a delicate fruit candy in his palm. The package contained unfamiliar words in French or German, carrying a high-end vibe that distinguished it from snacks in the 50 cents shop.
“The lead singer of Bell is about the same age as you. His brother brought him this candy from France and he likes it very much. That guy bragged in front of me while chewing it and ridiculed me for not being able to eat it… I snatched one while he was not paying attention.” Ji Sheng wrapped the towel on his head again and rubbed his hair in a messy manner, “The green one should be green apple flavour. If other people’s children can have it, our children have to have it too.”
He finished wiping, stood up and shook his hair: “I’m going back, Xiao Xie, take a break early.”
He walked out quickly. Xie Xuanming didn’t have time to say goodbye, so he could only hold the candy, raise his hand and shake his fist twice.
When the door closed, Xie Xuanming opened his palm, and the wrinkled package of the candy appeared in front of him.
Xie Xuanming tore open the package and put the candy in his mouth.
The taste of green apple spread on his tongue. Xie Xuanming sat with his eyes downcast and tasted it for a while, then suddenly was inspired, turned to take the paper, crossed out the original writing and started scribbling in the margin.
A week later, the Qingchu band showed a completely different style with the new song “Fruit Candy” in the semi-finals. The opponent was caught off guard by the transformed Qingchu and yielded the qualification for the finals.
At the celebration banquet, the members of Qingchu unsurprisingly got drunk again. Probably because of advancing to the finals, even Li Tan was affected and dozed off with his head propped up after three rounds of drinking.
Su Jing put down the glass and wrapped his arms around Xie Xuanming, his face flushed: “Awesome baby brother, I recruited you back then with the intention of bringing in someone to make up the numbers, but I didn’t expect that! Hey, you can compose music! Awesome.”
Xie Xuanming barely broke free from his arms, was hugged by him again and had his shoulder slapped vigorously: “Come, tell me, which girl do you have a crush on, we’ll slay tomorrow and propose a marriage for you.”
Xie Xuanming was taken aback: “I don’t.”
“Stop kidding.” Su Jing waved his hand, “Don’t try to lie, that song is clearly… absolutely… you’re definitely in love with someone, I bet Ji Sheng’s breakfast for a week…”
While Su Jing was shooting shit, Xie Xuanming caught a glimpse of the slumped Sheng Kongzhi suddenly getting up, walking quietly to Ji Sheng’s side, calling him and saying something. Ji Sheng got up and the two slipped out in silence.
Su Jing was still babbling; Xie Xuanming had no intention of entangling with him, stuffed a beer bottle into his arms to replace himself and walked out the door in the direction where the two disappeared.
Before he took two steps, he heard a chuckle coming from a corner not far away.
“…I want to hear you sing that song today.” It was Sheng Kongzhi’s voice.
“My voice is not suitable.” Ji Sheng said with a smile.
“I want to hear it.” The drunk Sheng Kongzhi was much more straightforward than usual.
“…Okay, don’t complain then that I don’t sing well.
“You are a sour taste on my lips, a phantom of my night, a glimpse in the mirror…”
Ji Sheng sang softly, with some hoarseness and an unspeakable shyness hidden in his voice.
The low sound of singing was coming quietly, carrying the young man’s thoughts that he couldn’t hide.
Xie Xuanming stood behind the corner, listening to Ji Sheng use his own song to express his heart to another man in a subtle yet candid way.
He lowered his head, listening for a while, then turned and went back.
Xie Xuanming returned to the table and pulled the bottle out of Su Jing’s arms.
“Fuck, my bottle… bottle… the bottle is flying!” Su Jing’s eyes widened in amazement.
Xie Xuanming ignored him, emptied the bottle in three gulps, then pulled out another bottle, popped it open with his teeth, drinking its contents like water, expressionlessly.
“Fuck!” Su Jing was in a daze, watching him drink. The beer slipped into his throat and fell into his stomach before he could taste it.
When Ji Sheng and Sheng Kongzhi came back, they were shocked to see Xie Xuanming nearly lying on the table, with a pile of beer bottles piled up beside him.
“Damn, how much did you drink?” Ji Sheng came over and counted suspiciously, “Seven, eight… Su Jing!! Fucking Xiao Xie has just come of age, how come you let him drink like that!”
He snarled at the heartless, giggling, drunken Su Jing at his side, but before the end of his sentence, his wrist was suddenly yanked.
The drunk young adult clutched his wrist with one hand, propped on the table with the other, kicked over two or three beer bottles and stood up swaying.
He leaned towards Ji Sheng and sprayed him with a sour smell of alcohol as he spoke.
“You, sing to others.” Xie Xuanming’s face was expressionless but there was an unstoppable flush on his cheeks and the tips of ears, “Still, my song.”
“Huh?” Xie Xuanming’s voice was low and vague. Ji Sheng didn’t hear him clearly, only faintly noticed a bit of grievance in his words.
Why? Did he feel isolated that they didn’t take him to drink?
Ji Sheng wondered.
Are the little boys so sentimental now?
Or is it that Xiao Xie was originally an emotional child like Sister Lin(2)?
Soon he didn’t have the heart to think about that.
The sentimental little boy somehow got the strength to yank violently—
When red eyes dilated in front of him and the smell of alcohol invaded his private space, Ji Sheng sensed something was wrong and tried to withdraw—
Ji Sheng lost his balance and leaned back, his head and waist suddenly hurt, hitting something; the bright light above his head irritated his eyes but before he had time to close his eyes, the shadow of a man came up and blocked the blinding light…
Xie Xuanming pressed Ji Sheng onto the plastic bench fiercely, lowered his head and bit his lip.
The author has something to say:
It’s Xiao Ji’s first kiss
Bitten on the first kiss hh
1. Wolf in sheep’s clothing
2. Probably, the character from “Dream of the Red Chamber” with a charming poetic temperament