In the afternoon of the week before New Years Eve, she went to Shanghai to participate in the semi-finals.
That train was a slow ‘K’ train and it took an hour and 20 minutes to get there. The platform was full of people, and she walked out carrying her schoolbag. She had been to this city several times before; there was still the familiar No.104 road, and the South Plaza that was so big that she couldn’t see it all with just one look.
When she arrived at the magazine publishing house, it was still early.
As soon as she arrived at the door of No.675 street, she ran into an old friend. Jiang Yan’s Talents Are Exhausted walked over quickly with excitement, his expression was full of high spirits. He called Meng Shengnan from afar, making it seem like he hadn’t seen her in many years.
“When did you arrive?”
“I just arrived.” Meng Shengnan asked: “You just arrived too?”
“Me?” Jiang Jin1reminder this is the real name of Scholar Jiang’s Talents Are Exhausted smiled, “I came here eight hundred years ago.”
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“Mbld obu yal usw blal?”
“Psd’v xldvksd kv, R zspv ps cyezu obkzl rzyukdt nyaep vbyv R yzxspv zspv lhlauvbkdt, R nyxl swv vs tlv ake sq xu cye zwnj.”
Yldt Fbldtdyd pyke: “Ebu es R alxlxcla vbyv usw’al alyzzu cye yv rzyukdt nyaep? Uyd usw lhld tlv ake sq vbkp cye zwnj?”
Kkydt Kkd aykple bkp lulcasop yde rwaple bkp zkrp.
“Zsw wdelalpvkxyvl uswa casvbla vss?”
“R esd’v eyal vs, R fwpv vbkdj–”
Fbl nswze qllz y ckt xwaelaswp yway zlyrkdt swv qasx bkp lulp, ps Yldt Fbldtdyd pvsrrle vyzjkdt. Fbl sdzu zssjle yv bkx okvb y pxkzl, Kkydt Kkd ldnswaytle bla vs nsdvkdwl.
“You won’t get angry?”
Jiang Jin shook his head.
“Then I’ll continue?”
“It’s better to do less of what you aren’t proficient at.” Before she could finish her words, Jiang Jin had already rolled up his sleeves and was ready to use his hands against her.
Meng Shengnan hurriedly ran away.
“You’re going against your words.”
“When did you hear that, why don’t I recognise it?”
His ability to bad-mouth was top-notch and no one could beat it, he could say these sorts of words every minute.
There was a hotel arranged by the organizing committee near the magazine publishing house. Those who came to participate in the semi-finals all stayed there. Jiang Jin took Meng Shengnan to the front to register, and the two of them returned to Room 2007. Lu Huai and Li Xiang were currently joking around, but when they saw Meng Shengnan, their eyes lit up just like Jiang Jin had before. Li Xiang used a strong Shandong dialect to say Happy New Year, Lu Huai was still as usual, carrying a hooligan-like smile.
“Because of my feelings for you, your brother, I, must take action to show it.”
After speaking, he directly came forward to hug her, and Meng Shengnan was deeply moved. The few of them sat around the bed, Li Xiang had bought a big bag of snacks and they chatted while eating.
“Why hasn’t Zhou Ningzhi arrived yet?” Lu Huai asked.
Jiang Jin said while eating sunflower seeds: “You miss him?”
“Why can’t I hear a single good word from your mouth?”
Jiang Jin rubbed his palms and smiled with bad intentions.
“Well, we’re all old friends, it’s normal to miss each other, why is your brain going in the wrong way?”
Meng Shengnan sat on the side and couldn’t help but laugh.
Just as Lu Huai was about to get up and kick him, the door opened, revealing a crack. His feet was still in the air, and he had already screamed in surprise. Zhang Yiyan opened the door and walked in, laughing.
“You are all quite early, I say Lu Huai, are you practicing Kungfu right now?”
Li Xiang replied: “He has always believed in never moving his four limbs and being ignorant about common things.”
They all laughed loudly.
Zhang Yiyan took a seat on the chair, lowered her head and glanced, “Ah, look at how you guys are spending your days.”
“We’re doing okay. We’re just waiting on you and Zhou Ningzhi.” Lu Huai smiled and leaned his face towards her.
Li Xiang laughed maliciously, “That’s right, I say, that brat can’t have been robbed due to his looks along the way, right?”
Jiang Jin chuckled, “If he knew that Xiao Meng was already here, he probably would start running wildly.”
Meng Shengnan’s face went a little red, but she held it back since there were so many people here.
“When did Shengnan come?” Zhang Yiyan seemed to notice her only now.
“She’s been here for a little while.” Jiang Jin answered for her, “I brought her over.”
Meng Shengnan nodded.
Lu Huai went, ‘yo, yo, yo’, and said, “You make it seem like you’re so great.”
“Wasn’t he just running away in order to get rid of his bad luck?” Li Xiang laughed.
Meng Shengnan glanced at Jiang Jin and also laughed.
“What bad luck?” Zhang Yiyan came late and didn’t know what had happened.
Meng Shengnan said: “His card skills are too poor, he lost in a very sorry state.”
“You played cards?” Zhang Yiyan pointed at Jiang Jin’s face, a face of disbelief.
“Why, can’t I?”
Zhang Yiyan cleared her throat and said, “You really do have a determination that’s not afraid of death. I don’t know who lost so much last year that they were only left with a pair of pants.”
Room 2007 was always full of vitality; you would tease, and I would mock. They came from all different places, spoke their own dialects, and carried stories bigger than the world. One would talk and the other would respond, if one started a topic, they would be able to say a bunch of stuff until the topic ended up going back to 50 million years ago.
It was raining and snowing outside the window, and the lights in the room kept flashing.
Later, when they talked about the topic of the competition, Lu Huai suddenly sighed and said: “This time I placed a military order with the Old Master4he means his dad at home, if I don’t get an award this time then I won’t write again, even at my death bed.”
A few people in the room suddenly became quiet.
“Do you need to go that far, I say.” Jiang Jin said.
Lu Huai shook his head, “I have quarreled with them more than once or twice about this.”
Meng Shengnan frowned and asked: “Why do uncle and aunty disagree?”
“They think it doesn’t have a good future.” Lu Huai smiled bitterly.
Zhang Yiyan said: “You should communicate with them well.”
“Does it even work?” Lu Huai said helplessly.
Jiang Jin looked up and stared at him for a while.
“If you don’t win this time, will you really stop writing?”
All four of them looked at Lu Huai.
The boy was stared at by everyone for a while, his expression was solemn, as if he was participating in some kind of sacrifice. Only after ten or so seconds, he finally couldn’t keep his expression anymore and smiled slyly under their burning gazes.
“I’ll write secretly.” He said.
“D*mn.” Li Xiang kicked him, “I was almost peed from being scared by you.”
They were all laughing again.
At that time, a group of people like them always had such pains and anxiety. At school, their minds were always elsewhere thinking about all sorts of things. Their grades weren’t that high and their writings weren’t that good either. Lu Huai said that he had thought about dropping out, yet he still continued on living the same life, after all, there was only one Han Han5a famous Chinese novelist who dropped out of high school.
When they had gotten close back then, Jiang Jin had asked them why they were all here.
Lu Huai said that his hobbies were playing games and reading martial arts novels. He was crazy about Jin Yong and Gu Long6famous Chinese authors who wrote in the martial arts genre, and sometimes he would even write up tens of thousands of words a day about the stories of love and grievances in the martial arts setting. Although his writings may not be one-tenth as good as his favorite authors, he still wanted to present something decent. Li Xiang gave him a bear hug at the time, and the two of them became confidants who could talk endlessly despite just meeting as they carried similar views, and they regretted not having met sooner.
It was also the same winter back then, with heavy rain and snow.
Back then, Zhou Ningzhi had then asked Jiang Jin the same question back to him.
The guy laughed: “Your brother, I, likes to try new things. You must have tried everything in this world in order to not feel like you wronged yourself.”
Meng Shengnan found it amusing.
Jiang Jin then smiled again, “To put it plainly, just one sentence.”
“What?” she asked.
He said: “Your brother, I, likes to cause trouble.”
Some seniors had once written in their essay criticism for this group, that being young and full of vigor was a good thing, but they must also not lose their rationality and run blindly. If they were to really end up doing that, they would have to take many detours if they wanted to turn back.
Jiang Jin, this guy later plopped this sentence in front of them.
“Who’s afraid of taking detours? Isn’t this earth round? Sooner or later, it’ll turn back.”
They laughed crazily, but felt that there was reason in his words.
The bell of the hotel outside broke their conversation7back to present time. Later at night, they went back to their rooms to sleep. Meng Shengnan met Zhou Ningzhi at the gate the next day for the semi-finals. There were contestants walking in, and a boy and girl were huddling together, talking and laughing endlessly.
“Zhou Ningzhi.” Zhang Yiyan suddenly yelled towards his direction.
The 180 centimetre boy walked over casually with his black school bag on his back, Jiang Jin punched him when he walked towards him.
“Why are you only here now?”
“Something preoccupied me at home.”
Li Xiang also went up with a punch: “I thought you weren’t going to participate?”
“I didn’t even think about participating.” Zhou Ningzhi smiled.
Meng Shengnan looked over.
“What do you mean?” Zhang Yiyan was surprised.
Zhou Ningzhi glanced at Meng Shengnan, then looked away.
“I didn’t register for the preliminary round.”
“What?” Lu Huai was no longer calm.
Meng Shengnan was also shocked, why had he urged her to write her draft then?
“That’s interesting enough, you have won three times already. If you were to win again this year, I’d see Lu Huai jump into the Huangpo River.” Jiang Jin joked.
Lu Huai glared and kicked the guy, “Why don’t you jump?”
Zhou Ningzhi said: “Okay, let’s talk about it after the competition.”
“What about you?” Zhang Yiyan asked.
“I’ll just be waiting here.”
After finishing speaking, he looked at Meng Shengnan, “Don’t be too nervous.”
Meng Shengnan smiled and nodded.
“Oh, you only care about Shengnan?” Zhang Yiyan raised her eyelids.
Jiang Jin went ‘tut’, and said “Look at your narrow-mindness, who will dare take you as a wife in the future, I say.”
Zhang Yiyan snorted, “Stupid Jiang Jin, say another word, do you believe that I will–?”
“What will you do?”
“You’re even excited now, aren’t you?”
As the two talked, they started to quarrel again, Zhou Ningzhi smiled and shook his head slightly. After a while, it was almost time. Meng Shengnan looked at the sacred place where the crowd was going towards. Zhou Ningzhi stood beside her and said softly, “Go.”
The semi-final was only three hours, one topic, one discussion.
When they finally came out, it was already noon. Zhou Ningzhi booked a nearby restaurant, and the group of them walked while smiling. Lu Huai propped his hand on Li Xiang’s shoulders, laughing like a scholar.
“My young and frivolous days.”
Jiang Jin smiled: “You’re considered frivolous?”
Lu Huai narrowed his eyes.
Jiang Jin said: “You’ve already been scared just like that by your mother.”
Li Xiang laughed, Zhou Ningzhi turned his head and asked what was going on. Jiang Jin poured the beans out of his pipe, his expression exaggerated while talking, making all sorts of actions and gestures flamboyantly.
Zhang Yiyan and Meng Shengnan walked behind them.
“Won’t you look at them?”
Meng Shengnan smiled.
Zhang Yiyan asked: “Will you still participate next year?”
“I don’t know yet, next year is my third year of high school, I”ll have a lot of classes.”
“This is true.”
“But I think you are incredible, you still came this year despite your college entrance examination next year.” Meng Shengnan said.
“I’m just fooling around.”
Meng Shengnan smiled.
“By the way, do you know which university Zhou Ningzhi has been admitted into?”
Meng Shengnan shook her head.
Zhang Yiyan let out a disappointed “Oh”.
“I will help you ask.”
Before Zhang Yiyan finished speaking, Li Xiang had already asked, he had obviously heard their conversation.
“Zhang Yiyan asks which university you are planning to get into?” Li Xiang patted his shoulder.
Zhou Ningzhi paused for a while, and said, “Fudan8quite a famous university in Shanghai.”
“D*mn.” Lu Huai said, “Will you let me live? My dad said that I can get into Beijing International University at best.”
Jiang Jin smiled: “You can just get your high school diploma.”
“I’ll kick you!”
The two quarreled again.
Meng Shengnan asked: “What about you, Sister Yiyan?”
Zhang Yiyan shook her head: “I don’t have as high ambitions as him, so I’ll see what happens then.”
[Translator’s Note: No ML here but I quite enjoy seeing FL and her friends interact. You guys notice something iffy about our Zhou Ningzhi? No?? Hehe…]