Middle school, with its youthfulness and inexperience, finally ended in the torrential rains on that evening after the zhongkao.
Several days later, Yaoyuan handed in the direct admission form, and immediately began slacking off in class. Most people doing direct admission didn’t want to study anymore, only Tan Ruikang still did the worksheets along with the class each day.
The first couple of days Qi Huiyu didn’t ask Yaoyuan about it, and Yaoyuan didn’t tell him either. Yaoyuan slept on his desk during class, while Qi Huiyu studied like his life depended on it, not talking much. Yaoyuan felt more and more like he’d let him down, but he found himself unable to speak up about it.
Qi Huiyu acted like usual on the surface, buying water for Yaoyua and going out to eat together, but it was as if he had put up a wall emotionally.
Spring had arrived. The springs of the south were always very short, and when the yulan magnolia trees shook out their buds onto the ground, a sentiment began stirring in the bottom of each person’s heart. Most youths wouldn’t understand what this meant, and neither did they have a way to let it out, so the students could only relieve these emotions through certain types of venting activities.
Getting into arguments over whether the window should stay opened or closed during class, and falling out with each other over it.
“Don’t bounce your leg!”
“You’re so annoying! Be quiet!”
“That’s not how you solve it, ugh, you don’t even know how to do it.”
“What do you mean I don’t know how to do it! Don’t ask me next time! Fuck!”
Everybody was extremely jittery, the boys would tease the girls after class, causing the girls who got teased to cry at their desk until class started, listening to the lesson with red eyes.
After going to the washroom between classes, a group of boys would crowd over a corner in the hallway. Sometimes if the crowding went too far they’d start fighting, pushing and shoving and cursing out with ugly expressions and claiming they’re breaking off relations with each other, only to make up a few days later.
During lunch break quite a few boys would even go out to an internet cafe and play Red Alert. That year, Gigi Leung's “Today” and Red Alert 98 were extremely popular, and even Yaoyuan joined them at lunch. In the end, Tan Ruikang was the one who dragged him back.
Yaoyuan felt jittery after an afternoon of playing video games, and had a big fight with Tan Ruikang. After going home, Zhao Guogang promised Yaoyuan that he would buy him a laptop if they got a good score on the zhongkao, and only then did Yaoyuan change his attitude from playing around to return to his studies.
Everyday at about 3 or 4 PM, he would get irritated from studying. The zhongkao was approaching, and quite a few people were pressured to the brink of mental illness. One girl would start crying at her desk every day at 4 PM after the slightest provocation.
After crying, everything would go back to usual; it was as if the whole class was one big psych ward.
“NATO bombed Yugoslavia!”
“Did you see the news? The Chinese embassy got bombed yesterday!”
Yaoyuan said blankly: “What? Be more specific.”
Once an important world event occurred, it was as if all the boys in the class had finally found a way to vent, talking nonstop about it in excitement. At lunch, Yaoyuan went specifically to the cafeteria and saw the TV in there playing the news, on it, a military expert was analyzing the missile route on an electronic image.
“Therefore we think that the opinions were wrong, the real chance of an accidental bombing is very low…”
All the boys in the cafeteria began cursing loudly, and some people sighed.
“It was definitely on purpose! Fuck!” Lin Zibo said.
Yaoyuan didn’t have many strong feelings about major national events, but all the boys were furious, discussing it all afternoon.
More news came during the first class of the afternoon.
“Hey, did you guys know? Someone from Jiuzhong’s high school division said they’re going to smash the McDonald’s in Shangbu tonight!”
Yaoyuan received a scare, and said: “Really?”
Someone said: “Should we go see?”
Yaoyuan asked Qi Huiyu if they should go, but Tan Ruikang’s expression changed and said: “Don’t go! What’s it got to do with McDonald’s! Be careful you’ll get arrested!”
Yaoyuan said: “I’m not going to smash it, what’s wrong with taking a look.”
Tan Ruikang said: “No! Don’t go! Listen to me!”
Qi Huiyu felt hot all over from studying, and wanted to find some way to release his twitchiness. After Tan Ruikang left, Qi Huiyu quietly said to Yaoyuan: “Let’s go for a walk and a smoke.”
The vast majority of the class left during the evening self-study, even Lin Zibo went. Everyone got on their bikes and rushed towards the rumoured site of the troubles. Yaoyuan’s dad’s company wasn’t far off from there, the whole street was filled clamorously with people.
In the distance, loud crashes could be heard. Yaoyuan said: “They’re really smashing it!”
The students were so excited it was like they’d been injected with chicken blood; there were police around the entrance, and Zhang Zhen immediately began shielding several boys and backing away, saying: “Go to the intersection, don’t get too close, we’re just taking a look.”
Yaoyuan passed out some cigarettes, each person watched on the sidelines with a cigarette in their mouths. The majority of them were high school students, all applauding and cheering.
Sirens sounded in the distance, but the cars were stuck in traffic and couldn’t get through. Inside the McDonald’s across the street, loud bangs and crashes sounded.
Tan Ruikang had just returned from eating dinner when he saw that half the classroom was empty. Everyone had dipped on the evening self-study to check out the scene of action. He immediately furrowed his brows, took out his phone and called Zhao Guogang, then called a cab to the scene.
“Where is he?” Anger immediately rose up in Zhao Guogang when he heard that his son was getting mixed up in a situation like this.
Tan Ruikang stood on the street, and saw that there was a woman sitting in Zhao Guogang’s passenger seat. Suddenly, he didn’t know what he should say.
Zhao Guogang’s expression was rather unnatural. He said: “Get in the car.”
Tan Ruikang said: “I… I’ll go take a look over there…”
At the scene, it was chaos. A group of middle schoolers stood on the sidelines, making a racket like they’d been injected with chicken blood. The excitement was over, the people smashing the store had been taken away by the police, when all of a sudden a pair of fingers pinched down on Yaoyuan’s ears and dragged him to the side.
“Hey—” Yaoyuan yelled. Once he realized it was Zhao Guogang, he began trembling like a mouse in front of a cat, and threw away the cigarette in his hand.
The rest of the people quickly threw their cigarettes as well, and a string of “Hello, Uncle,” “Hello, Uncle,” sounded.
Zhao Guogang said: “Go back and attend the evening self-study, your homeroom teacher gave me a call! Don’t let your teacher worry.”
The group immediately agreed in a chorus of yes, we’ll go right now’s. Zhao Guogang saw about ten people after taking a glance around, it was too much to fit into a car, and so let them go.
The students dispersed, and Yaoyuan returned to the classroom with an apprehensive heart. He saw that Tan Ruikang wasn’t there, and wondered if he was the one who snitched. Why did his dad show up?
It just so happened that today the homeroom teacher was the one supervising the evening self-study. She called Yaoyuan over for a scolding, meaningfully and heartfeltly telling him something like “just because you got a direct recommendation doesn’t mean you can stop studying,” then scolded him for setting a bad example for his classmates and leading them to trouble.
Yaoyuan came back from the lecture all wilted. Tan Ruikang finally returned to the classroom for the evening self-study, looking restless.
Yaoyuan sent him a text:【Where did you go?】
Tan Ruikang’s text:【To look for you. Don’t do this next time, everyone was really worried】
Yaoyuan thought for a bit, concluded that Tan Ruikang probably wasn’t the rat, and so didn’t continue pushing him.
It wasn’t until summer officially came and he walked out of the exam room on the last day after both the graduation and entrance exams were over that Yaoyuan suddenly realized: middle school was over!
His middle school years were over, just like that.
It rained hard on the last day of the zhongkao, the basketball court was filled with water when they finished taking the physics exam. All the students had to wade through the water, and Tan Ruikang and Yaoyuan were standing at the kiosk outside the school waiting for Zhao Guogang to pick them up.
Suddenly, Yaoyuan felt like he was in a dream.
“Milk Boy! Bye!” Someone coming out of the exam room bade him farewell, and Yaoyuan waved back at him. Zhang Zhen was drinking soda and hiding from the rain inside the kiosk, the students flung their satchels behind their butts, chatting with each other loudly.
“Come, come!” Yaoyuan bought a whole strip of cigarettes and gave each person a pack, feeling a sense of unspeakable loss.
Everyone was talking about the exams and the answers. Tan Ruikang was joking with a girl, Qi Huiyu came out of the exam room and put away his umbrella once he was inside the kiosk. It was so crowded inside that none of the students could even turn around, Qi Huiyu yelled through the crowd: “Yaoyuan! Treat us, treat us!”
Yaoyuan gave him a pack of cigarettes, then picked up a bottle to drink some soda. He suddenly wanted to do something to remember his middle school life by, and so said to Qi Huiyu: “Run?”
Zhang Zhen said: “What?”
Qi Huiyu said: “Run!”
Yaoyuan and Qi Huiyu rushed out into the rain with big steps.
Zhang Zhen took a huge flying leap, yelling: “Ahh—”
Heavy rain poured down, violent thunder roared, over ten students ran out into the rain, the raindrops falling like a waterfall over the heavens and earth.
Yaoyuan meaninglessly shouted out like a madman, and everyone began screaming and shouting along with him. They tore out onto the street outside their home school under the torrential downpour. They were in a residential area, so there were very little cars around. Yaoyuan dashed past the ginkgo grove, flying by the bus stop they usually waited at, and made a turn in front of the milk tea shop.
Tan Ruikang couldn’t help himself from shouting out along with them, everyone ran like crazy through the streets, letting out their youthful impulses through this mad dash.
“Have some milk tea!” Yaoyuan said: “My treat!”
Qi Huiyu said: “No, I’ll treat you! It’s always been me who treats you!”
The group of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder under the awning in front of the milk tea shop, each with a cup of hot milk tea in their hands. Lin Zibo, water all over the lenses of his glasses, roughhoused along with them, laughing heartily.
Qi Huiyu came over to give them a hug one by one, first he hugged Zhang Zhen, then he also hugged Tan Ruikang. They all knew what Qi Huiyu meant by this—he was leaving, he would be leaving them and going to board alone at Yizhong.
When he got to Yaoyuan, he held him tightly in his arms, eyes filled with tears, and said: “Goodbye.”
Nobody said anything. Yaoyuan felt extremely upset, hugging back tightly and patting his back.
The rain fell even harder, and Na Ying's “Just Like A Dream” was playing over the milk tea shop speakers. Many years later, Yaoyuan would still remember this scene.
After saying goodbye to his companions, Qi Huiyu walked into the rain to call for a cab. He waved nonstop at them, saying: “Let’s all go out and have fun together later!”
Qi Huiyu left, the taxi’s yellow lights turned around in the pouring rain. When he left, it was like he’d brought the entirety of Yaoyuan’s middle school years with him.
Those reckless days filled with laughter, memories of Milk Boy and Milk Girl, the emerald green of the parasol trees after being drenched in the violent rains, the headlights under the bridge in the evening when the lights are lit…
After Yaoyuan grew up he would often think, if he and Tan Ruikang had gone to Yizhong that year, or if he’d gone to a different school, would his life have been different?
But in the end, there was no such thing as a redo in life. Middle school, with its youthfulness and inexperience, finally ended in the torrential rains on that evening after the zhongkao. It gradually faded away in the times of the past, never to return.
And we’re finally over with the middle school arc, aka the happiest arc! I hope to get the next chapter out next week but I have some assignments due, so if there’s no update you know I procrastinated 😩. I edited this chapter myself so if you see any errors please point them out! Thank you for reading ❤️
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Kapsoura.