Liu Xiu helped Jiang Hong with his luggage, walking ahead while Jiang Hong looked around curiously.
“Oh, those are clothes hanging out to dry.” Jiang Hong saw the row of “people” in the woods and realized they were clothes hanging there.
“This is the school’s back entrance, so not many people pass through here,” Liu Xiu explained.
“Um, senior.” Jiang Hong noticed Liu Xiu’s other empty hand, which was shaking uncontrollably.
“What?” Liu Xiu quickly glanced at Jiang Hong.
“Your hand, is everything okay?” Jiang Hong asked.
Liu Xiu also noticed it and immediately put his hand in his pocket, saying, “It’s nothing.”
“You’re all wet…” Jiang Hong said, “Did you just go swimming or are you sick and sweating?”
“…” Liu Xiu didn’t answer.
Exiting the woods, Jiang Hong finally saw the normal student dormitories in the distance. Although it was still a bit far, the dorms were on a hillside with scattered lights. There was also a large lake in front of them, and on the other side of the lake was a gymnasium.
“The dorms are closed.” Liu Xiu looked at his smartwatch. “We can’t get in now. Let’s go to our association’s lounge.”
“At this time of night?” Jiang Hong remembered that they had only arrived at the school’s back entrance at 8 p.m.
Liu Xiu went around to the back of the gymnasium, which was a three-story student activity center. The building wasn’t tall, but it was narrow. Jiang Hong followed him for a while until Liu Xiu opened a password-locked door and turned on the lights.
Inside was a spacious wooden floor training hall, with snow-white Western fencing uniforms hanging on the side.
“Senior, is this your club?” Jiang Hong thought to himself that this school was quite rich. It even had a fencing association.
“Just call me by my name,” Liu Xiu said. “I study fencing and came here for that.”
Liu Xiu opened another door and waited for a while as Jiang Hong looked around curiously. Jiang Hong wanted to pick up a rapier, but Liu Xiu said, “The second one is mine.”
Jiang Hong picked up a rapier and swung it a few times before putting it back. He saw that the handguard had the character “Xiu” engraved on it.
“If you want to join, just fill out the application,” said Lu Xiu. “But there are many clubs in the school, so you don’t have to choose this one.”
“Oh… is it because you practice fencing that your hands shake?”
Jiang Hong followed Lu Xiu into a small room, which was a lounge with several beds.
“You can take a shower in there.” Lu Xiu gestured towards the bathroom. “There are snacks and instant noodles in the cabinet.”
“Thank you, senior,” Jiang Hong said obediently, quickly plugging in his phone to charge.
“Call me by my name,” Lu Xiu reminded again. He seemed to not like being called “senior”.
Jiang Hong immediately nodded and corrected himself, “Thank you, Lu Xiu.”
He thought Lu Xiu would leave after bringing him to the club lounge, but he didn’t expect Lu Xiu to lie down on another bed.
“Lu Xiu, if you’re busy, you don’t have to take care of me,” Jiang Hong said. His phone was still not turned on yet.
“The dormitory is locked,” Lu Xiu said casually. “I can’t go back either.”
“I’m sorry for the trouble.” Jiang Hong felt a bit guilty.
Lu Xiu didn’t answer, just lay there lost in thought.
Jiang Hong felt that this senior was cold but still easy to talk to. It was as if Lu Xiu was someone who was difficult to approach naturally, but because he was assigned to be his mentor, he was trying hard to appear more enthusiastic.
Finally, the phone turned on. Thank goodness, there was a signal in the school. Jiang Hong replied to his worried parents’ messages, took a shower, put on loose shorts and slippers, and sat on the bed with wet hair, looking at his phone.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lu Xiu get up and take out two boxes of instant noodles. “I’ll go get some hot water.”
Jiang Hong looked out the door and saw Lu Xiu’s profile as he stood by the hot water tank. At that moment, Jiang Hong finally paid attention to Lu Xiu’s appearance. He thought this senior was really handsome–the most handsome guy he had ever seen among other boys.
In Jiang Hong’s high school, Lu Xiu would definitely be the school hunk that people would take photos of on the street. He didn’t even need to dress deliberately, just a black long T-shirt, sports pants, and white sneakers. His appearance was enough to beat any fashionable outfit. Jiang Hong himself was also very conscious about his good looks, but for the first time, he felt inferior in front of another boy.
He had just picked up his phone and was about to take a picture of Lu Xiu’s profile when Lu Xiu noticed his movement and looked at him.
“My mother asked me who I’m with,” Jiang Hong asked. “Is it okay?”
Lu Xiu nodded and turned slightly to let Jiang Hong take a picture, which he sent to his parents.
Lu Xiu came back with a bowl of noodles and they ate in silence. During the meal, Jiang Hong wanted to get closer to Lu Xiu but couldn’t find a topic. For someone like Jiang Hong who liked to talk, silence was shameful.
So he tried to make small talk, “Lu Xiu, you’re so handsome, do you have a girlfriend?”
Lu Xiu: “…”
Jiang Hong’s awkward chat was very damaging to his personal image. After all, talking about such things shortly after meeting for the first time seemed offensive. But for two straight guys, this kind of social icebreaker was still tolerable.
“If not, then what?” Liu Xiu completely disregarded common sense.
Jiang Hong thought: Oh, can you answer like that? Then how do I continue this awkward chat?
Jiang Hong could only laugh awkwardly. “Are there many pretty senior sisters in our school?”
“Not many,” Liu Xiu said coldly. “So, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Uh…sorry, I tend to talk nonsense when I’m nervous. Don’t take it seriously,” Jiang Hong said.
Liu Xiu’s face eased up slightly as he looked at Jiang Hong. He wanted to say a few more things to make up for it, but Liu Xiu didn’t give him the chance. He got up and went to take a shower.
The sound of water came from the bathroom, and there was only a curtain separating them. Jiang Hong lay down on the bed and could see Liu Xiu’s lower leg under the curtain. He seemed to have a tattoo on his leg.
So handsome; he had a tattoo, Jiang Hong thought, but he didn’t look any longer and started playing with his phone.
After a moment, Liu Xiu came out with his hair still wet, sitting on the bed bare-chested and putting on a short-sleeved t-shirt. Jiang Hong had fallen asleep.
Liu Xiu looked at Jiang Hong’s sleeping face for a moment, then covered him with a thin blanket, turned off the light, and lay down on the other bed.
In the darkness, Liu Xiu let out a small sigh.
The morning sun shone on Jiang Hong’s face as he opened his eyes and saw Liu Xiu.
“Wake up,” Liu Xiu said with a hint of drowsiness, his hair a little messy.
Jiang Hong slept well. He yawned and sat up like a carp.
“Liu Xiu, did you sleep well last night?” Jiang Hong asked.
“No, but I’m used to it,” Liu Xiu said, already wearing a hoodie. “Go wash up, have breakfast, and then register.”
This wasn’t a senior, it’s a nanny! But for Jiang Hong, his time at home had always been like this. His parents had always given him the best, taking care of every little detail, and he was already used to it.
People say “your classmates are not your parents” – but clearly they were, since the senior even brought him a toothbrush and towel, and by the time he finished washing up, Jiang Hong couldn’t wait to join this warm family!
In the early morning, there were students practicing in groups of two or three in the fencing club. When they saw Lu Xiu and Jiang Hong walk out of the rest area, there was a sudden silence and everyone’s gaze was a bit strange.
“Good morning!” Jiang Hong didn’t know them, but he was always very cheerful and outgoing.
The team members took off their masks and looked at Lu Xiu and Jiang Hong with expressions of shock and curiosity.
“Let’s go,” Lu Xiu said without looking at his teammates.
Jiang Hong: “…”
Jiang Hong thought it was strange, but he didn’t ask and just thought to himself, “Is Lu Xiu not on good terms with his teammates?”
The sun had risen and the whole school was alive. When Jiang Hong walked out of the club, he couldn’t help but exclaim in his heart – this college was really beautiful, with mountains on both sides, water on one side, and Qinling Mountains to the north and west. The air was crisp in the autumn, and you could even see the milk cap on top of the snow mountain in the distance.
Perhaps it was because the school had not officially started yet, there weren’t many students on campus, and most of them were dressed fashionably. There were no bicycles going back and forth on the main road, and it seemed that skateboarding was popular. Occasionally, Jiang Hong would see a few boys speeding by on skateboards, carrying a waist bag.
But even stranger things happened.
When the walking, skateboarding, or chatting students, both male and female, saw Lu Xiu and Jiang Hong walking together, they all stopped in their tracks and looked at them with curiosity.
“This school has a really beautiful view,” Jiang Hong sincerely praised, “and the climate is very pleasant.”
“Um,” Lu Xiu said absentmindedly.
“Where is the dormitory?” Jiang Hong looked around and waved to people passing by, but no one responded.
As more and more quiet gazes were directed at them, Jiang Hong felt a little uncomfortable.
“On the mountain,” Lu Xiu said calmly. “You’ll go there later.”
Lu Xiu suddenly stopped and stood still, saying coldly, “What are you looking at?”
Jiang Hong was startled, but he realized that Lu Xiu was talking to the students who were staring at them. When they met Lu Xiu’s gaze, they immediately turned their heads and pretended nothing had happened.
Lu Xiu moved his lips silently, not swearing, but making a soft sound with a hint of hoarseness. Jiang Hong couldn’t make out what he said.
The people nearby all went their separate ways.
“What did you say?” Jiang Hong asked.
“Nothing,” Lu Xiu said calmly. “Now let’s go to the cafeteria.”
The core circle of the school was the administrative building. The first circle consisted of the cafeteria and the student union. The second circle was the teaching building. The third circle was the student dormitory. The fourth circle was the playground and the club activity center, and the fifth circle was the moat, mountain, wall, and old factory.
Liu Xiu led Jiang Hong up a small hillside, and their view widened slightly. Jiang Hong dragged his luggage and was a bit out of breath, but he saw the buildings that Liu Xiu had mentioned.
“Such a big school only admits a little over 200 students a year?” Jiang Hong said incredulously.
“That’s something you should ask the principal,” Liu Xiu replied.
During his sophomore summer camp, Jiang Hong had been to Beijing, and this school was almost as big as the Summer Palace. Nearly two kilometers away, a Chinese-style building stood at the center of the entire campus. The wooden structure had nine floors with intricate carvings and paintings, red pillars and dark green glazed tiles that reflected brightly in the sunshine. Wow! It was simply…
It was like forcibly inserting an antique Tang-style palace from the movie “Spirited Away” into a school filled with modern buildings. For some reason, Jiang Hong felt as though the strange giant building would take off like a rocket if it had an engine attached to its bottom.
“The school looks like…” Jiang Hong murmured to himself.
“Well, it’s the Tai Chi formation,” Liu Xiu said, unusually talkative. “The central area is the Tai Chi, and the outer area is the combination of the River Diagram and the Luo Shu. Did you figure it out?”
“Oh, no,” Jiang Hong said awkwardly. “I just thought it looked like a temple.”
As they got closer, Jiang Hong noticed that the teaching buildings were also very unique, each with its own style that blended elements of Han, Tang, Qing, and the Republic of China, as well as modern architecture. There were also many beautiful murals painted on the walls.
Liu Xiu led Jiang Hong through the teaching building area and arrived at the cafeteria. The cafeteria was divided into twelve dining areas, each of which was spacious and had signs indicating specific dietary restrictions such as no beef, no chicken, no pork, no lamb, no fish, vegetarian, etc.
Jiang Hong: “???”
Jiang Hong had never seen such detailed dietary restrictions in a cafeteria before.
Liu Xiu signaled to Jiang Hong, asking if there was anything he didn’t eat. Jiang Hong waved his hand, and Liu Xiu used his own meal card to buy breakfast for both of them. The food was good, with a choice of coffee or tea, Western-style scrambled eggs, fried potato cakes, and even a bowl of noodles.
Jiang Hong could tell that Liu Xiu didn’t like to talk, so he didn’t try to make small talk with him. The two of them finished their breakfast in silence, and a few senior male students who had overslept came into the spacious cafeteria. When they saw Jiang Hong and Liu Xiu sitting together, they looked at them curiously.
Jiang Hong noticed, and it seemed like everyone was giving him that kind of look. Since he had just started school, no one could be targeting him, so it must have been directed at Liu Xiu.
But he didn’t ask and pretended nothing was wrong.
“How much was breakfast? Let me transfer the money to you, senior.” Jiang Hong took out his phone.
“No need,” Liu Xiu said coldly.
“Then I’ll treat you to a meal when I get my meal card.”
Liu Xiu didn’t answer. After a moment, he suddenly looked up and scanned the cafeteria with his eyes. The students who had been staring at them immediately lowered their heads and started eating.
“Let’s go after we finish eating,” Liu Xiu said in a low voice, picking up the trays and getting up with Jiang Hong.
Jiang Hong’s curiosity was at its peak – had Liu Xiu done something wrong?
But he quite liked this quiet senior, perhaps because of his first impression. Liu Xiu was really handsome, and Jiang Hong was into good looks. As long as they were attractive and weren’t bad people, he was willing to get close to anyone.
Moreover, Liu Xiu was kind to him. Although he acted coldly, Jiang Hong could see that he was caring for him as much as he could. He was the first friend Jiang Hong had made in college.
Liu Xiu brought Jiang Hong to the administrative building, the nine-story Tang-style overlapping palace in front of them. The plaque outside the main entrance of the palace hung high, with the words “unwavering resolve in the face of adversity” written in regular script.
Jiang Hong: “……………”
This university was really too strange! Why would there be a plaque with such a motto at the entrance of an administrative building?! It was clearly a temple from any angle! Did they build a temple in the center of the school to ward off evil spirits because the school was haunted? Jiang Hong silently thought of many campus ghost stories and legends.
Liu Xiu gestured for Jiang Hong to go inside, and they took the elevator to the third floor. The female voice inside the elevator announced the floor:
“Third floor, Academic Affairs Office.”
Jiang Hong looked outside through the railing on the third floor. Although the administrative building was only nine stories tall, each floor had a high ceiling, and his location was equivalent to the seventh or eighth floor of a residential building. He realized that the administrative building was indeed arranged like the central circle of a Tai Chi diagram. But in the Yin-Yang areas of the Tai Chi, only the Yang area had buildings, while the Yin area was a huge lake with many lotus flowers.
Although the view was refreshing when he looked out the window, Jiang Hong felt that the atmosphere of the school was becoming more and more eerie.
Lu Xiu brought Jiang Hong to the entrance of the ‘New Student Registration Office’ and said, “You go in and register.”
“Thank you,” Jiang Hong replied.
Inside the registration office, there was a desk with a swivel chair behind it. A man dressed in a black suit lay half-reclined in the chair, with his feet up on the desk and a copy of ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ covering his face. He was sleeping.
On the wall in front of him hung a calligraphic scroll with the words “Time has no bounds, only the lamp of the heart can shine eternally.” On both sides of the room, there were several colorful paintings.
“Excuse me, hello?” Jiang Hong approached the man and spoke softly, “Teacher, hello.”
The man was still asleep.
Lu Xiu, who had been standing outside the registration office, looked inside after hearing Jiang Hong’s voice. He turned around and made a gesture while making an indistinct sound in his throat.
Jiang Hong suddenly felt a wave of energy rushing towards him. It was like an invisible force passing by him.
“Mr. Xuan!” Luxiu shouted coldly.
The book on the man’s face was knocked off, and he was startled. He slipped and fell behind the desk with a loud crash.
“Ah! What happened?!” the man woke up, yelling.
“Ah!“ Jiang Hong was also scared. What was that just now? A gust of wind?
“Mr. Xuan, a new student is here to register,“ Luxiu said sternly from outside the door and closed it behind him.
The man had a dazed expression on his face as he got up from the floor. Jiang Hong hurriedly reached out to help him up. Mr. Xuan sat up straight and rubbed his eyes, nodding his head while picking up the book from the floor.
“What happened just now?” Jiang Hong was still shaken.
“It’s nothing, it’s nothing,” Mr. Xuan said as he tried to regain his composure. He looked at Jiang Hong and muttered to himself, “Oh, new student registration. Yes, yes, you have finally arrived.”
Jiang Hong stood there feeling embarrassed while Mr. Xuan introduced himself, “I am Mr. Xuan Hezhi, and what is your name?”
Xuan Hezhi had thick eyebrows and large eyes, and he looked very upright and young, not even thirty years old. He had the face of a director of education.
“I am Jiang Hong.” Jiang Hong took out his admission notice.
“Oh, let me see.” Xuan Hezhi typed Jiang Hong’s name into the computer.
“I found it,” Xuan Hezhi said. “Great, it’s a rare talent, a rare talent…”
Jiang Hong asked, “What did you find?”
Xuan Hezhi looked up at him and smiled. “You’re a pretty handsome young man.”
“Oh,” Jiang Hong blushed. He quickly replied, “No, no, Senior Lu Xiu is even more handsome.” He wondered why he had answered that way.
“He’s the most popular guy on our campus,” Xuan Hezhi said. “He’s not human; you can’t compare yourself to him. You’re already very handsome.”
“Hahaha,” Jiang Hong didn’t expect Xuan Hezhi to say that. “You’re really funny.”
“Um,” Xuan Hezhi checked Jiang Hong’s identity against a photo and said, “You’re from Chongqing, right? Oh, Lu Xiu volunteered to take care of you. Oh, it’s you. He’s been waiting for you for a long time.”
“Huh?” Jiang Hong didn’t understand. “No, we just met last night.”
“Oh, okay. I won’t pry into a student’s personal matters,” Xuan Hezhi muttered. He stood up and went to the cabinet to look for Jiang Hong’s file, taking out his college entrance exam papers.
“You did well in the subjects,” Xuan Hezhi said. He stamped the acceptance letter and put it together with the papers.
“I’m ashamed,” Jiang Hong said humbly. He thought to himself, but I’m not a special talent, I only study liberal arts?
Xuan Hezhi wrote a note for registration, saying, “Take this note to collect your student ID card, dormitory key, and name tag. They have all been prepared for you. Lu Xiu will take care of you and you can ask him if you have any questions.”
“Thank you, teacher,” Jiang Hong said obediently. He wondered if this was some kind of special social practice. Perhaps helping a younger student could earn him some points?
After leaving the room and closing the door behind him, Xuan Hezhi began to casually read “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. Lu Xiu waited for Jiang Hong in the hallway. Upon seeing the note, he said nothing and led Jiang Hong to collect his meal card and dormitory key. On the way to the dormitory, they passed by the school supermarket where they bought some daily necessities, including imported goods.
“We can order things online, and they’ll be delivered to the village below the mountain every evening after school starts. The school will distribute them to the dormitory,” Lu Xiu said. “Add me on WeChat and I’ll send you the delivery address.”
Jiang Hong, who had just arrived in Xi’an, wanted to go out and explore. “How do I get out of the school?”
“Every half hour, there’s a bus from the front gate and the side gate. The one at the side gate will arrive at half past the hour, and the back gate is on the hour. When you’re ready to come back, just get off at your dormitory.” Lu Xiu pointed to the building in front of them.
Jiang Hong looked up at the dormitory building in front of him, which was still empty and uninhabited.
Lu Xiu added him on WeChat and led him into the elevator, and then to the door of his dormitory.
“Thank you, senior,” Jiang Hong said obediently again.
Lu Xiu looked at the door of the dormitory and hesitated for a moment. He seemed to realize that he might cause unnecessary trouble for Jiang Hong if he accompanied him all the way.
“Shall I come in with you?” Lu Xiu asked.
“No need,” Jiang Hong said. “Thank you for your help.”
“In that case, I won’t accompany you any further,” Lu Xiu said. “If you need anything, just let me know.”
“How about I treat you to dinner tonight?” Jiang Hong hurriedly said.
“Let’s talk about it after you settle down,” Lu Xiu said as he walked away without looking back. Instead of taking the elevator, he walked quickly down the stairs with his hands in his sweatshirt pockets.
Jiang Hong stood there for a moment and looked out of the corridor to see Lu Xiu’s figure leaving downstairs.
Jiang Hong whistled at him, and Lu Xiu stopped in his tracks, a little hesitant.
Lu Xiu turned around and looked up at the ninth floor.
“Thank you!” Jiang Hong threw him a flying kiss. All in all, his enrollment was quite pleasant.
He pulled out the keys and opened the dormitory door, pushing it open to reveal a pile of garbage, a semi-naked young man in black pants covered in sweat and cleaning the mess, and a severed hand in the garbage heap.
Jiang Hong: “…”
The young man stopped and looked at him.
“Hello,” Jiang Hong said. He did a double take and exploded, “Oh my god! Why is this dorm so dirty?! What happened?! Is there a murder case?!”