That afternoon, the six of them went to play near The Bund1a waterfront area in central Shanghai after eating. They found a sunny place to sit and chatted. Among them, Zhang Yiyan and Zhou Ningzhi were one year older than them, both had to take the college entrance examination next year in June.
One was in Nanjing and the other was in Chengdu.
As they were chatting, two young people dressed in Tibetan clothes came and sat on the ground about ten meters away. On the ground there was a two-square-meter cloth full of all kinds of small gadgets. The man sang with his guitar, while the woman stood beside him.
Jiang Jin was a native of Beijing, his Beijing dialect was very strong, “I heard Zhou Ningzhi say that you learned the guitar.” He took a few sips of alcohol and looked at Meng Shengnan.
“Well, I just learned a little bit.”
“The path of a literary and artistic young woman is really suitable for you, I say, tell your brother, what have you learned?”
Zhang Yiyan, who had been keeping her anger in since the afternoon released it all at this time, retorting back, “Every sentence you have to say brother, when did Shengnan promise to call you her brother?”
Jiang Jin smiled with bad intentions, “What’s the matter, you want to call me brother?”
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Nw Twyk yde Nk Dkydt olal vyzjkdt ycswv Eyanayqv, yde vblu olal yxwple obld vblu blyae vbl nsdhlapyvksd, vbkdjkdt ycswv oyup vs qyd vbl qkal vs oyvnb vbl pbso. Hbsw Lkdtgbk eke dsv eakdj sa pxsjl, ps bl fwpv pyv vblal. Nssjkdt shla, bl ypjle bla: “Ebyv byhl usw zlyadle?”
Mbl vos pyv iwklvzu vstlvbla sd sdl pkel, vbl okde czsokdt qasx vbl Twydtrw Skhla.
Yldt Fbldtdyd vbswtbv qsa y obkzl yde pyke: “R zlyadle y qlo psdtp, cwv R’x dsv hlau qyxkzkya okvb kv.”
“Gdu vbyv usw nyd rzyu dso?”
” ‘Waklde’ nswdvp yp sdl.”
Nk Dkydt kdvlahldle pweeldzu: “R pyu, zlv’p ts yde vyjl y zssj?”
Everyone applauded unanimously, got up from the table and walked over. As soon as the man finished playing the song, the woman smiled and took out a notebook from her pocket and handed it to Zhou Ningzhi, who was the closest to her, and said, “You can write down your wishes.”
Then she gave them an Alpine candy each.
After chatting, they learned that they were old friends who had trekked to Tibet. Starting from Jinan, they travelled all the way to the west to go to the highest point of the Potala Palace2winter palace of Dalai Lamas in Lhasa, Tibet, and then stood on top of the Mani stones3stones wherein mantra or devotional designs are inscribed or painted under Tibetan prayer flags, passing through the prayer wheels to light the Butter lamps4lamps in Tibetan Buddhist temples, looking at the colorful prayer flags while reciting Buddhist scriptures and saying ‘Tashi Delek’5a Tibetan all-purpose greeting with the meaning of blessings and good luck.
Zhang Yiyan wrote down his wish, turned a page, and handed the book to Meng Shengnan.
Meng Shengnan glanced at the woman in her unique Tibetan clothing, thought about it, and handed it a minute later to the others after finishing writing. Jiang Jin had no good intentions and wanted to take a peek, but he was caught by Zhang Yiyan, he smiled cheekily.
Zhang Yiyan glared at him for a second, then smiled and asked the man: “Hello, can we play a song?”
“Of course.” The man smiled.
A few of them didn’t understand his intentions.
Zhang Yiyan took the guitar handed over by the man, and asked Meng Shengnan with his head turning sideways: “Shall you play a song, our literary youth?”
Zhou Ningzhi and Jiang Jin looked over at the same time.
“Me?” Meng Shengnan stammered and pointed at herself.
Zhou Ningzhi glanced at Zhang Yiyan, and then at Meng Shengnan.
Jiang Jin was about to speak.
Meng Shengnan had already taken it over carefully, and asked them softly: “What should I do if I’m out of tune?”
Zhou Ningzhi breathed a sigh of relief: “It’s okay.”
“Don’t worry, brother won’t laugh at you.” Jiang Jin said.
Lu Huai also immediately stated: “Out of my feelings for you, brother won’t either.”
“We’ll sing along.” Li Xiang said.
Meng Shengnan listened to their words and was amused.
Their group gathered together, and the breeze gently blew by. Meng Shengnan took the guitar and stood in the open space, calming down her nervous mood. At that time, the sky was still slightly bright, and there weren’t that many people strolling along the river. The Oriental Pearl Tower stood far away, and the city showed a flourishing scene of prosperity.
The string was plucked and the song began, soothing and gentle.
“All these years, alone. Been through the wind and walked through the rain.”
“There have been tears and mistakes. Do you remember what you persisted on?”
“If you really loved, then you would understand, there will be loneliness, you will look back.”
“I’ll sing this sentence.”
Lu Huai smiled, “There will always be a dream, and there will always be you in my heart.”
At that time, the sky was always blue, and we were still us. Because of a thought, they had come here, and met this group of people. They were free and unrestrainted, talking and laughing. One spoke, the other responded, if one started a topic, they would be able to reach five thousand miles away.
In another direction by the river, a boy’s eyes were staring over there.
“Look over there.”
The boy said to another boy next to him.
Both were wearing gray jackets, tall and thin, leaning against the fence. The boy who had been asked lazily raised his eyes and pursed his lips. He played with the lighter in his hand and wanted to light a cigarette.
Just as he looked over, Meng Shengnan was lowering her head.
“Look at the land or the person?” He laughed frivolously.
The boy chuckled lightly: “Your eyes are sharp enough, look at the person, okay.”
He smiled again and lowered his head to light the cigarette
He lifted his head up again, squinting slightly to look over there. The girl turned sideways to play the guitar, he could only see her side profile. A group of boys and girls around her, sixteen or seventeen years old, they were the same types of people.
“Ah Zheng6nickname for ML, Chi Zheng, using last character in his name, what do you think of that girl?”
He glanced, looked away, and asked, “Want to chase her?”
The boy smiled, “Just asking.”
“Come on, you.”
The boy laughed and said, “I dare not compare with you.”
He smoked a cigarette, snorted, and nodded his chin toward Meng Shengnan’s back.
“You like this type?”
The boy paused for a while, and then retorted: “Then what about you, what type do you like?”
He laughed and snorted again.
“Don’t you know?” he retorted back.
The boy laughed.
He raised his eyebrows, “Lu Sibei, are you making fun of your brother?”
The boy shrugged, and their attention went to chattering nonsense with each other. The song was still being sung over there, long and melodious.
“Friends walk together for a lifetime, those days won’t last forever.”
The song floated in the air, dissipating over time. The wind on the riverside was getting stronger, and the man and woman had long left, taking their wishes to the Potala Palace. That night they went to the KTV to play until midnight, and the six of them walked back to the hotel along the street. Shanghai was always bolstering at night, those were days that Meng Shengnan missed very much later on in life.
That night, Zhang Yiyan said, “You played very well.”
Meng Shengnan gave her a smile.
The list of winners were announced the next afternoon, and Meng Shengnan was the only one left in the room at that time. Zhou Ningzhi went back to Nanjing early in the morning as he had something to do last minute. The others went out to play again. She was resting in the hotel alone, her period had arrived in the morning, she was in so much pain that she fell asleep at noon. Later, after waiting for some time, there was still no notice of her results, she thought about it and had a feeling that she hadn’t won.
When she went out, Jiang Jin had just come back.
The snow had melted, and the sun was particularly bright.
“Sister, come back next year with your brother.” He looked at her for a while with hooligan-like smile.
As soon as that sentence came out, Meng Shengnan knew what had happened. She felt herself get a sore nose suddenly, she felt dull, unable to say anything. Jiang Jin slowly walked over and hugged her gently.
“Brother can’t coax people, so don’t cry.”
Meng Shengnan bit her lip, shaking her head slowly after a long time.
“What do you want to eat, your brother will take you there.”
Meng Shengnan shook her head.
“Just take coming here as a holiday to see relatives.”
Meng Shengnan stood up straight, her eyes wet.
“Your brother here, is he not?”
Meng Shengnan twitched the corner of her mouth.
“The road is still long, isn’t it?”
Meng Shengnan was not that kind of fragile person, but she still felt very disappointed and upset within her heart.
She smiled at Jiang Jin and said: “They must be very busy now, I won’t wait any longer.”
“You’re leaving now?”
“Yes, say congratulations for me.”
Meng Shengnan lowered her head and raised it again: “Am I quite hopeless?”
“Who said that, brother will beat them up.”
Meng Shengnan smiled faintly.
Jiang Jin said: “Be strong, it’s not a big deal.”
Jiang Jin caressed her hair and said with a smile: “Okay, I’ll take you to the train station.”
Jiang Jin asked: “Then the bus station?”
Meng Shengnan nodded, went back to the room and quickly packed up her schoolbag, fearing that she may bump into them. Jiang Jin escorted her to the bus stop and said before leaving: “Contact me when you’re back, don’t keep hiding, do you understand?”
“I will harass you by calling your home.” He was still shouting.
“I got it, I’m leaving now.”
The bus moved slowly, Jiang Jin was still waving at her.
The wind was still blowing, and the snow had long melted away. Meng Shengnan sat in the last row and opened the window to look outside. There were rows of tall buildings, Shanghai was really beautiful at that time, containing all her dreams. She always thought that she would reach her dreams again, but it was not enough, even working hard was not enough.
A long time after when she was studying, a teacher asked her to use an idiom to describe her mood at the time.
“Extreme joy and sadness.” She thought.
[Translator’s Note: Bit of a slower chapter but it shows the lovely friendship FL has with her friends in the competition, and also the introduction of another boyyyyy (does his name look familiar, check the plot summary!) Anyways thanks so much for everyone’s support thus far!]