On August 12th, the day before military training officially began, the residents of Room 903 decided to take a trip to downtown Xi’an. Their last roommate, He Jian, had not yet arrived.
“Shouldn’t we wait for him?” Jiang Hong pointed to the empty bed, wondering if it was the right thing to do.
“Do you know him?” Zhang Xiting asked.
“No, I don’t.”
“Then why bother worrying about it?” Zhang Xiting said. “Let’s go.”
It was great to be able to explore the city, and even though Jiang Hong didn’t care about what his roommates were talking about during their long night of sharing ghost stories, at least they would talk to each other today.
“Should I invite my senior?” Jiang Hong wondered, wanting to treat him to a meal.
Zhang Xiting and Jin had no objections, but they seemed unwilling to invite their own seniors, so only Jiang Hong messaged Lu Xiu.
Lu Xiu responded instantly: “Do you want me to take you to the city? Okay.”
Jiang Hong mentioned that he had roommates, and Lu Xiu paused for a moment, seemingly considering, before replying, “You guys go ahead. I won’t go.”
Perhaps Lu Xiu didn’t want to go shopping with people he didn’t know, so Jiang Hong had to give up and invite him again next time.
“Oh, this is the main entrance.” Jiang Hong followed his roommates to the school gate and saw the signboard of “China Sky University” painted with new red paint and decorated with auspicious totems such as dragons, phoenixes, qilins, and turtles on a sky-blue background.
There were also two sculptures inside the main gate. Jiang Hong leaned in to take a look. The one on the left was a deity holding six magical tools, while the one on the right was a man holding a lamp and dancing with long sleeves. Jiang Hong couldn’t read the seal script inscribed on the base.
“The one on the left is the Unmoving King,” Jin said. “The one on the right is the Lamp-Lighter.”
“Oh, I see.” Jiang Hong thought to himself, this school really looked like a tourist attraction.
Dozens of minibuses were parked outside the school gate, where students gathered, mostly freshmen, chatting and waiting for the bus in pairs or threes. Someone greeted Jiang Hong, and he responded happily.
“Do you know him too?” Zhang Xiting was surprised.
“He’s from the dorm next to ours.” Jiang Hong smiled at a tall and skinny male student under the signboard. “I met him in the laundry room yesterday.”
The guy had a thin face and a long neck, and he was with his roommate. After exchanging greetings, he nodded at Jin and headed to a different bus.
“His name is Chang Jun,” Jiang Hong explained to Zhang Xiting. “I just asked for his name and dorm.”
Zhang Xiting was always observing, and at this moment, he pushed his glasses up and the lenses suddenly reflected a glint of light in the sunlight, giving Jiang Hong a sense of foreboding.
Here, hundreds of freshmen stood on two sides, very consciously finding their own positions and chatting with each other. Jiang Hong remembered that he had seen the other two boys from Room 904 and had greeted them, although he didn’t remember their names. They were not with Chang Jun, who was their roommate.
“Hey!” Someone waved to Zhang Xiting and Jiang Hong. “Room 903? Join us?”
Zhang Xiting looked at Jin and declined their invitation.
Zhang Xiting: “I’m going out with my roommates.”
“You coming with that little handsome guy?” the person asked again.
“No,” Zhang Xiting replied.
Jiang Hong: “???”
Jiang Hong: “Next time!”
Of course, Jiang Hong could not join them, otherwise, wouldn’t he be leaving Jin behind? He looked at Jin, who looked a bit strange and was also looking at the crowd.
Zhang Xiting: “The car’s here.”
Jin: “Should we take the red or blue bus?”
Jiang Hong: “???”
Jiang Hong: “Either is fine. I can take either one.”
The sides of the minibus were marked with colors, and Zhang Xiting said, “We’ll take the red one. You sit by yourself, since it won’t take long.”
When they got on the minibus, the conversation in the car was lively, but for some reason, as soon as Zhang Xiting and Jiang Hong sat down, the car suddenly fell silent.
Jiang Hong: “???”
Jin: “You two sit. I’ll sit here. No, don’t get up, don’t be polite. I’m not that old, don’t give me your seat…”
The boy sitting by the window stood up subconsciously to give Jin his seat, but Jin pushed him back, walked to the back row, and sat down. People around him automatically moved over to give him more space.
Zhang Xiting sat in a double seat with Jiang Hong.
“We can finally go to the city!” Jiang Hong was in a good mood. He stretched his waist, and suddenly realized that everyone was looking at him from all directions, so he looked around, and people immediately looked away.
Jiang Hong: “???”
Why does it always feel so weird???
“Want to listen to some music?” Zhang Xiting turned his head and whispered.
Jiang Hong gave Zhang Xiting one of his earphones. Zhang Xiting crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat, casually looking out the window.
The minibus drove out of the school gate and onto the mountain road. There were layers of emerald forests on one side and a blue ribbon-like river on the other. This scenery never got old no matter how many times you saw it…
…Why did it start to blur again?! Jiang Hong thought, do all your drivers have such guts?
The scenery suddenly became blurred, and Jiang Hong almost cried out, but the freshmen in the car were all calm and began chatting with each other again. Jiang Hong barely restrained himself. The whole process only lasted two or three seconds. The car passed through a straight road full of birch trees, and Jiang Hong saw the road he had come from and the back door of the school.
He shared with Zhang Xiting about the false alarm he had when he just arrived the day before. Zhang Xiting was first stunned, then burst into laughter. He leaned his head on the front seat, laughing so hard that he shook.
Jiang Hong: “???”
“It’s nothing.” Zhang Xiting laughed until tears almost came out of his eyes. He turned his head and looked at Jiang Hong, saying, “You’re so cute.”
Jiang Hong: “……”
“They’re my roommates.” Jiang Hong vaguely heard Jin say to a new student he didn’t know, sitting in the back row.
When the minibus arrived at Xi’an, it parked and the students got off one after another.
“Ah!” Jiang Hong said. “It’s my first time in this millennium-old place… Oh my god! Why is it so hot!”
Mid-August in Xi’an was the hottest time of the year, and the sun was like a tipping furnace, constantly pouring heat down from the sky. At ten o’clock in the morning, Jiang Hong had just gotten off the bus, and he already felt like he was being roasted alive.
“We’re here.” Jin grabbed Jiang Hong and dragged him out of the car. “Come with me to buy a phone.”
Apart from the first few hours of getting to know each other, Jiang Hong found that Jin and Zhang Xiting were really easy to get along with. He had no objections to wherever they went. He just followed them.
When they arrived in the downtown area of Xi’an, Jiang Hong suddenly felt a long-lost sense of returning to civilized society. He first bought three cups of cola ice cream and walked while drinking, then went with Jin to buy a phone. When Jiang Hong was picking a phone in the Apple Store, Zhang Xiting went to try on headphones and played with the new iPad on the side.
“This one is a bit lighter, but the screen is a bit small,” Jiang Hong said.
“I like the gold one,” Jin said. “I can buy all four of them. There’s no limit on purchases, right?”
Jiang Hong: “……………”
“Do you have four personalities and need four phones?” Jiang Hong said. He had never encountered anything like this before and quickly persuaded Jin to only buy one phone.
But Jin didn’t understand and asked Jiang Hong, “Do you want one? I’ll buy one for you.”
“No, no, no.” Jiang Hong quickly refused him. “I just got a new phone during the summer break. Thank you. I’m so touched. Brother, you’re the first person to offer to buy me a phone besides my parents.”
Jiang Hong wondered why Jin was so rich but had only just started using an iPhone.
“If you buy four phones, you’ll just look like a nouveau riche,” Zhang Xiting reminded him.
Jin smiled apologetically and explained, “When I’m at home, my dad doesn’t let me use high-end electronic products for fear that I’ll be distracted by them. He only lifted the ban when I went to college. And I need Xiao Hong to teach me how to use them.”
After accompanying Jin to pay the bill, Jiang Hong helped him register for an email and electronic account. After Jin finished paying with his card, he took out his old phone card and threw the old phone into a garbage can on the roadside.
When Jiang Hong helped him register for an Apple account, a text message popped up at the top:
[ICBC reminds you that on XX day at XX o’clock, there was a POS machine consumption of -12,500.00 yuan. There is still a balance of 7,674,130.27 yuan on your card ending in 3079.]
Jiang Hong: “……………………………………”
After buying the phone, the three boys stood outside the Apple store not knowing what to do next.
“It’s so hot.” Jiang Hong gave up the idea of visiting the scenic spots, and suggested they eat and watch a movie instead. Xi’an wasn’t fun during the day, and they would have to go back to school in the evening. After having lunch, the three of them had nothing to do. Zhang Xiting then suggested they go and play a non-horror escape room, and Jiang Hong agreed.
However, Jiang Hong found that playing the escape room with Zhang Xiting resulted in him and Jin, as well as five or six other people who joined the group, standing on the side and watching him play. Zhang Xiting’s brain turned too fast. He found the answer to every clue in less than three minutes.
“You guys go ahead,” Zhang Xiting said when he noticed that he was making it too easy.
Jiang Hong racked his brains and managed to unlock one door, but in the end, he couldn’t solve the puzzle, so he had to hand it over to Zhang Xiting. Zhang Xiting solved it in less than five minutes.
“Congratulations, you are the fastest group of players to leave the escape room!” The staff congratulated them.
Zhang Xiting pushed his glasses up out of boredom, and left with Jiang Hong and Jin.
As the sun began to set, Jiang Hong bought a bunch of snacks and stuffed them in his backpack. He also bought something for Lu Xiu. As they waited for the school bus outside the Da Ci’en Temple, a minibus with a blue stripe on the body pulled up.
“Are you getting on?” Zhang Xiting asked Jin. “Or waiting for the next one?”
“Let’s get on,” Jin said. “Let’s get back early.”
They chatted on the bus, but suddenly everyone fell silent and the students on the bus looked at Jin behind Jiang Hong.
Jiang Hong: “???”
What’s wrong now? Did they get on the wrong bus? Jiang Hong was full of doubts.
“My roommate,” Zhang Xiting said.
Jin was sitting alone in a two-person seat, and another person came up after a while. It was Chang Jun from the dormitory next door. Chang Jun hesitated whether to get off or not when he got on the bus, but Jin patted the seat next to him, indicating for him to come over. Chang Jun smiled and sat down.
Everyone on the bus looked at them for a while, but everything returned to normal once the bus started moving.
Jiang Hong felt someone tapping on his head. He turned around and saw Chang Jun.
“I saw you three go play the escape room.” Chang Jun’s smile was a bit mischievous and rogue-like.
Jiang Hong: “Why didn’t you come?”
“Hey, watch your hands! Don’t touch randomly!” Zhang Xiting said coldly.
Jiang Hong gestured to show that it was okay, but suddenly realized that Zhang Xiting had a strong aura and looked a bit scary when he got angry.
Chang Jun asked, “Have you met your senior brother?”
“He didn’t come,” Jiang Hong said, while checking his phone. He found that while he was in the secret room, Lu Xiu had sent him several messages in a row.
Lu Xiu: “Are you still in the city? I’m done with my work. I’ll come and find you.”
Lu Xiu: “Are you there?”
Lu Xiu: “Then I’ll go back first.”
Jiang Hong quickly replied to Lu Xiu and apologized, but Lu Xiu was not angry. He just told him that it was okay and that he was already in the city for some business.
Jiang Hong bought a pair of headphones for Lu Xiu and was planning to take them to his dorm, but Lu Xiu told him not to wander around and that he would come to him in the evening.
It was the last day before military training, and the mysterious roommate still hadn’t shown up. The whole dormitory building became lively with new students wandering shirtless in the corridor, singing. Some of them were visiting each other’s dorm rooms.
The senior members of the student union entered the dormitory one by one, checking the students’ military training supplies and informing them of precautions.
Jiang Hong was packing his backpack when he saw a super beautiful senior sister come in.
“Senior,” Zhang Xiting greeted her.
“Hi.” The senior sister, named Di Di, hung a badge on her chest and said, “Xiting, are your things packed? Here, these are your camouflage uniforms. Two each, and the hat and belt are included… “
Wow! She must be the senior sister responsible for one-on-one guidance for Zhang Xiting! Jiang Hong thought to himself, why are all these people so good-looking!
“Tomorrow the military training will start,” Di Di said. “Let me see your things and remind you of some precautions… How come you still have a roommate who hasn’t shown up?”
Jiang Hong, Zhang Xiting, and Chang Jun spread out their things. Di Di began to teach them how to hand wash clothes, but then she suddenly looked up, her eyes full of anxiety. She turned her head to look outside the dorm and immediately stood up straight, her voice trembling.
“Senior Lu,” Di Di said nervously.
Lu Xiu was standing outside the dormitory door, squinting his eyes at them.
“Senior brother!” Jiang Hong smiled and said, “Did you get a haircut?”
Lu Xiu had changed into a loose short-sleeved T-shirt and jeans today, and had just had his hair cut. His hair was much shorter now.
“You come out,” Lu Xiu said, “I won’t go in.”
Jiang Hong then took the headphones he bought for Lu Xiu, and Lu Xiu said to them again, “You guys continue.”
“Oh my god, he scared me.” Di Di was quite frightened and said, “His aura is too strong.”
“Yesterday he already came once,” Zhang Xiting said.
Di Di warned them, “Don’t mess with him. His temper is really bad.”
Zhang Xiting nodded and Di Di gave some instructions, reminding them of the important points. “military training is the same as on-campus. Don’t reveal your true form, don’t use any spells. There will be patrols checking. If you violate any rules, there will be confinement and demerits.”
“It has nothing to do with me,” Zhang Xiting said.
Jin reminded, “Don’t use spells.”
Zhang Xiting couldn’t be bothered to respond to him. Di Di continued, “Don’t fight. Fighting is also very serious, especially group fights…”
Jiang Hong followed Lu Xiu out of the dormitory. From Room 901 to 930, everyone in each room was curiously looking at them. However, Lu Xiu did not stop and went to the elevator and pressed the 13th floor, then went up to the rooftop.
The rooftop was a garden with fresh air and garden lights. There was even a coffee shop on it. Jiang Hong had never been up here before and exclaimed, “Wow!”
For students, it was still during the summer vacation period, so the coffee shop was not open. However, Lu Xiu seemed to be familiar with it. He turned on the coffee machine and began brewing coffee.
“Hey, how did you know…”
“I worked here before,” Lu Xiu answered.