Had Lin Xigu had his way, he would have been cured after taking the pills She Xiao had given him, no matter what he had come down with. However, things did not always work out the way he expected, and he was even drowsier after taking the cold medicine.
When Zhou Cheng asked him how he was feeling that afternoon, Lin Xigu slurred that he had a cold and was feeling under the weather. Zhou Cheng offered to excuse him from class if he felt sick enough to leave early. Lin Xigu was sleepy, but didn’t feel sick other than some slight nausea. Moreover, he couldn’t just abandon She Xiao; he was not done processing that morning’s emotions – he couldn’t go home just yet.
He laid his head down on his arm, peeking at She Xiao through half-lidded eyes. She Xiao’s face was always expressionless but over time, Lin Xigu had gained the ability to interpret the emotions behind his impassive mask.
For example, in that moment, he was at peace.
Lin Xigu couldn’t help but recall She Xiao’s smile that morning. The more he thought about it, the sweeter that smile seemed. He wanted to take advantage of his current state of delirium to do something, like touch She Xiao’s hand.
But that would be wholly inappropriate. Lin Xigu squeezed his eyes shut. Out of sight, out of mind.
Before he knew it, he had dozed off again. His face was still unnaturally red, his lips chapped and cracking; he looked rather pitiable.
Dong Xuan checked on him during break and mumbled, “He can’t keep sleeping like this. He looks cold. Poor guy’s all hunched over. Maybe I should ask Laoshi to send him home?”
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Because the scent meant that She Xiao was not far away.
He slept for two more classes, accompanied by the vague fragrance of She Xiao’s jacket. He finally woke again during the last class of the day. Perhaps he had been spoiled by the events of the day, but when he discovered that he was wearing She Xiao’s jacket, he was pleasantly surprised while still taking it in stride.
“Quickly, put it back on. It’s chilly.” Lin Xigu returned the jacket to She Xiao. The chill of the room became apparent as soon as he had taken it off. “Thank you…”
She Xiao didn’t accept the jacket and merely looked at him. “Keep it.”
“No, I’m fine, really,” Lin Xigu’s throat was parched and he quickly took a sip of water. “I’ve napped myself silly today.”
He didn’t get the chance to look at She Xiao all day. He had wasted what little time he had sleeping, and he felt rather cheated. But as much as he hated to surrender the twenty minutes he usually spent with She Xiao on their walk home, he had no strength left in him; he was going to have to call a cab.
Lin Xigu sighed. He had missed so much, and all because he had neglected to dress for the weather that morning.
And thus, his relationship with She Xiao grew steadily closer. Lin Xigu felt fulfilled whenever he contrasted the She Xiao as he knew him now with the She Xiao of before.
His cold lasted several days. When he finally recovered, he looked upon She Xiao with eyes that shone brighter than ever before.
“She Xiao!” Lin Xigu saw She Xiao turning the corner and ran up to him, smiling. “Good morning!”
She Xiao gave him a small smile, answering in a low voice, “Good morning.”
Lin Xigu’s mind stuttered. Losing control of his inner filter, he blurted, “You look especially nice when you smile.”
She Xiao looked taken aback, then lowered his head and fell silent.
Realizing what he had just said, Lin Xigu wanted to bite his tongue off. What’s wrong with you? Are you trying to be a creep? She Xiao’s been nice to you so now you think you can get away with anything? Guys don’t go around telling each other they look nice. Is he going to think you’re sick in the head?
You are sick in the head.
Annoyed with himself, Lin Xigu laughed humourlessly. “I’m completely recovered now. Throat’s no longer dry or hoarse. I’ve been so groggy and confused — I bet I’ve given you a lot of grief over the past few days, huh?”
She Xiao met his eyes. “No.”
Lin Xigu didn’t say anything more. They continued walking in equal silence, both staring at their feet. To a bystander, the visual was almost comical in an off-kilter kind of way.
Li Balei stopped him as he entered the classroom and thrust a thermos into his hands.
“My mom’s homemade soup,” Li Balei said through a mouthful of crackers. “Don’t you have a cold? I asked her to make it for you. Drink up. You’ll be all better once you drink it all.”
“I’m already better,” Lin Xigu smiled. “Much obliged, Ballet Grrrl.”
“No need for niceties, not with the kind of relationship we have. You moved halfway across the room and you still buy me chocolate. Bringing you soup is nothing.” Li Balei waved and returned to her desk.
Lin Xigu carried the thermos back to his seat. He still felt awkward speaking to She Xiao after his impulsive compliment that morning.
He took out his notepad and wrote:
— Took care of me while I was sick. True value is unquantifiable. +230 as a symbolic gesture.
The new total was much too high. His system was going to lose all meaning. He needed to find an opportunity to bring it down a little.
In truth, She Xiao had given him no reason to deduct points as of late. She Xiao had become almost flawless in Lin Xigu’s eyes, and any flaws previously identified had almost completely turned into pluses. Nowadays, Lin Xigu was only ruthless when docking points for new injuries — evidence that She Xiao had been fighting again. He struggled to find justification for anything else.
For example, in the past, he had always deducted a few points here and there every time She Xiao smoked, but Lin Xigu now found it kind of attractive. He was almost tempted to award points for his smoking instead.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whatever the beauty does, goes. No explanation required.
Lin Xigu was busy crunching numbers when he felt the light touch of an icy finger on the back of his hand. He looked at it without comprehension. She Xiao’s hand was next to his. Seeing that he was still absentminded, She Xiao tapped the back of his hand again.
“Hi! What is it?” Lin Xigu snapped to attention. Realizing it was She Xiao trying to get his attention, he quickly asked, “What is it, She Xiao?”
She Xiao looked at him and said, “I want to leave.”
”Yup, you got it!” Lin Xigu scrambled out of his way. He didn’t know why She Xiao’s expression had seemed so innocent, but it was adorable.
She Xiao returned, bringing the smell of cigarettes with him. Lin Xigu didn’t require a reminder this time and moved aside of his own accord to let him back in. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he looked at it after sitting back down. It was a text from Li Balei.
Lin Xigu’s heart dropped into his stomach. He thought for a moment, then replied:
Li Balei’s reply was quick.
Lin Xigu glanced in her direction. She was sprawled on her desk, tapping away on her phone.
Li Balei didn’t reply this time, still fiddling with god-knows-what on her phone. Lin Xigu sunk into self-reflection. Could it be because he had finally discovered the truth about She Xiao’s inner self and realized that he was not all that he seemed? And that was why he could no longer suppress his emotions nor control the urge to look at him?
Lin Xigu sighed. Or maybe it was just the pain of not being able to stare unapologetically despite sitting right next to him.
People had a habit of doodling their true feelings when their mind was distracted. Likewise, Lin Xigu failed to notice that he had doodled She Xiao’s name repeatedly across his notepad while he had been lost in thought.
And what’s more, he had written it before She Xiao left on break.
When Lin Xigu realized the severity of the problem, his face turned bright red. Crap! She Xiao had been looking down as he edged past to leave. There was no way he could have missed seeing his own name on the page — it was too obvious!
Ah, ah, ah, ah! He was going to die.
He clutched his chest and fell forward face-first, his forehead making an audible thud as it hit the desk. She Xiao was startled by this sudden movement and turned to see Lin Xigu lying prone on his desk, the tips of his ears flaming.
She Xiao raised an eyebrow.
Lin Xigu was kneading his forehead against his desk, the half sheet of notepaper sticking out still visible with She Xiao’s name.
She Xiao’s mouth twitched as he turned to look out the window.
The leaves of early autumn had only begun to show hints of yellow. Each gust of wind scattered a handful from their branches, the leaves fluttering as they fell, as if to itch at one’s heart.
The secret thoughts of youth swayed with the dancing leaves. One was devoted, the other was gentle.