Chapter 6: P.
Malicious Gossip

“Ning Yixiao, you have a mole here.”

Ning Yixiao was taken aback.

He hadn’t expected his overattention would be noticed by Su Hui.

Seeing Ning Yixiao’s reaction, a smile played on Su Hui’s lips.
The topic suddenly changed then.
“This student, do you have an umbrella? I don’t want to get wet in the rain again.”

That startled Ning Yixiao.
Then he nodded.
“I do.”

He handed Li Cong all of the opinion cards in his hand.
Under Li Cong’s clearly odd gaze, he turned and walked towards Su Hui.

The two left the room, walking shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallway full of passersby.
Neither of them spoke.
They simply walked in silence.

There was a downpour outside, leaving a crowd squeezed together by the entrance at the end of the hallway.
Ning Yixiao opened the umbrella, giving Su Hui some space for him to step in.

The distance between the two immediately shortened to one where their arms touched.
Ning Yixiao couldn’t quite get used to it.
With worry unintentionally sprouting in his subconscious, he tilted the umbrella.

Su Hui’s collar was very large.
As he walked, it exposed many parts of his skin.
Ning Yixiao accidentally discovered some bruises at his neck area that looked like traces from a rope.

Noticing that he was staring again, Ning Yixiao looked up, fixing his eyes.

The umbrella was not huge.
The good thing was that it was not windy outside.
The rain had already formed small puddles.
Looking down, he discovered Su Hui was wearing a pair of snow-white canvas shoes.
Just by looking at the brand, he knew it was not cheap.
Now that they were drenched, it was undoubtedly a pity.

Meanwhile, he himself was wearing a pair of sports shoes so old that its original color could not be recovered no matter how it was washed.
The pant legs of this pair of old jeans were also soaked by water.
He’d have to wash it for a very long time when he went back.

“Where are you heading?” Ning Yixiao looked at him.
“I’ll bring you to your dorm?”

Su Hui’s eyes were lowered, his face so wan it appeared translucent, with green vessels faintly visible.
His long eyelashes hung down heavily.
With his entire face shrouded in water vapor, it appeared indistinct.

“I don’t stay in the dorms.” Su Hui avoided a small puddle cautiously.
He looked up, glimpsing Ning Yixiao’s drenched right shoulder.
“I don’t have a dorm.”

These two sentences appeared to mean the same thing, but also seemed different.

As long as their pair of eyes met, Su Hui would show that sort of straightforward childishness, as though he had never suffered — that he was someone who grew up while given overwhelming affection.

“Can you send me to the electronic reading room in the library?” Su Hui said, “I want to stay there for a while.”

“You’re still wet.
It’s best to first change to another set of clothes.” Ning Yixiao glanced at him.
The blue T-shirt was completely sticking to Su Hui’s body.

“It’s fine.
I won’t get sick.
I practically never catch colds.
The last time I caught one was a year ago.
And that was because the weather that summer was really strange.
It was clearly still a hot 38 degrees the day before, but the next day, it suddenly dropped.
Plus, I went to learn how to swim that day.
Although I didn’t manage to learn it…”

He didn’t stay in the dorms, yet he wasn’t going home, and he even very frankly pointed out the fact that he was staring at him.
And now he was talking about the weather and activity he did last summer.

He was derailing through the topics so suddenly.

Listening to Su Hui talk, Ning Yixiao discovered that he practically had no space to interject.

When he had sent him to the library, Su Hui finally stopped jumping through his flight of ideas too.

Only now did Ning Yixiao speak up.
He smiled.
“You really are a weird person.”

Su Hui seemed to be very used to hearing such commentary, so he didn’t even plan on refuting.
He just gazed into his eyes.

Once again, he gave Ning Yixiao a completely unguarded smile and took out another napkin from his pocket, handing it to him.

Ning Yixiao took it and noticed two lines were written.
The first was a phone number.
And the second was his WeChat contact.

“You are too.” Su Hui walked up the steps to the library and spun himself around.
He gazed at the droplets falling from the roof, reaching out to cup some rainwater.
“You are very weird too.”

Ning Yixiao heard this, but before he could say anything in response, Su Hui reached out again, his finger pointing at the corner of Ning Yixiao’s eye.
It was only a few millimeters away from touching.

“Ning Yixiao, you have a mole here.” He changed the topic again.
But his tone was serious as if he was studying something.

Ning Yixiao was disconcerted.
The pitter-pattering of rain on the umbrella sounded particularly deafening.

This was so strange.

“I’m going.
See you.”

Su Hui didn’t seem to need a response to his words.

He headed towards the side entrance.
But he looked back midway, eyes curved as he whispered to him a thank you.
Then he turned back, shaking away the water on his hair like a small animal, and vanished after turning the corner.

As if awakened from the dream, Ning Yixiao came back to his senses.
He gripped the napkin in his hand, shoving it in his pocket without taking another look.

He wanted to know why Su Hui thought he was strange, why Su Hui would notice his gaze, notice he was looking at him, and why he would give him his contact.

The deluge was getting increasingly heavy.
But Ning Yixiao didn’t seem to have noticed.
He even forgot his initial plan.
He almost reached his dormitory when he remembered he had to hurriedly head to the house of the student he was tutoring.

Reaching late, apologizing, receiving the student’s grades, beginning to his job of guiding the student, discussing with the student’s parent, and rushing to the location of his next job — these were all things no different from before.

After changing out of the cafe uniform, Ning Yixiao took the last bus that only had three people back to school.
He opened the window.
The cool petrichor drifted past, calming down his heart that had been slightly unsettled the entire day.

His hand reached for his pocket, taking out that napkin, but discovered that the words had been soaked by water, leaving them impossible to decipher.
After he looked straight at it, the glinting sharp sword that seemed suspended above his head the entire day had finally vanished.

This feeling left him feeling apprehensive.

When he was back in the dormitory, Ning Yixiao opened the lock to the drawer of his desk, taking out a very old book.
He flipped it open and began recording that day’s expenditures.
Then he calculated the days to his payday and the remaining debts, feeling unable to catch his breath.

It was still a very heavy day.
But something seemed different.
Ning Yixiao closed his eyes on his bed, remembering something in the darkness.

Feigning nonchalance, he brought up Su Hui to his roommates then.
But he only received comments similar to what Li Cong said.

There was even a roommate who offered a piece of gossip that was even more private.

“I heard his personal life is really wanton and he makes friends easily.
But he likes to sleep with guys more.”

“Are you serious? That’s really disgusting.
I’m gonna throw up.”

“I’m going to die of laughter.
Su Hui really slept with guys? The girls I like even liked him before…”

“Why did Yixiao suddenly bring him up today? Don’t tell me you…”

“No way! Our Handsome Ning’s been completely living the monk life these few years of uni, OK? He never even got close to girls, so guys are even less likely.
Right, Yixiao?”

Ning Yixiao listened to their laughter and discussion, pretending to be asleep.
This was not the first time such topics were discussed in the boy’s dorms.
Usually, he would agree or chuckle a few times with them, pretending to be a part of them.

But today, his face remained cold in the dark.
He did not laugh.

There were many things he wanted to say, but he held his silence, swallowing the words back.

The next time he saw Su Hui was on an afternoon the week after.
That day happened to be one where he had not signed up for an optional course, and the student he was tutoring had requested a day off too.
So, his afternoon had coincidentally been freed up.
Ning Yixiao decided to use this rare free time to revise English in the self-study room in preparation for the TOEFL exam.

He planned to take it only once and to succeed in this one time.
It was not easy to fork out 2100 yuan for the exam fee.
Ning Yixiao had no going back.

It was in this self-study room that he met Su Hui once again.
Except, the other did not seem to have noticed him.
A small pathway separated them, and he was diagonally in front of him.
If Ning Yixiao looked at his periphery, he could see the side of Su Hui’s face.

When Su Hui studied, he looked more serious than he had expected — he did not even take a sip of water throughout the entire afternoon.
The textbooks of his major were extremely thick, and when he flipped through them, it exposed pages full of notes and post-its.
Incredible seriousness colored his face when he hit the keyboard too.

Nearing dinnertime, the originally packed self-study room gradually emptied out.
The students left one by one, leaving only the two of them in the end.

The air was still.
Ning Yixiao packed his things, carried his school bag and left without saying a word.

At night, while he worked his shift in the cafe, Su Hui’s side profile kept reappearing in front of his eyes.
The afternoon light on him, the soft down on his skin, and how he looked when he leaned back on his chair in exhaustion, his eyes closed and face upraised.

This troubled Ning Yixiao.
And it even caused him to make newbie mistakes when taking orders.

It started raining outside again.
But it was not a heavy one.
As he headed back to school, Ning Yixiao ran through the empty tree-lined path.
The dim yellow lamp light seemed to have muddled his sense of direction, leading him back to the school of sciences building where he did self-study.

Likely from the run, Ning Yixiao’s heart was beating rapidly after climbing the stairs.
But in the instant he entered the classroom, he suddenly calmed down.

There was only a bespectacled boy in the classroom.
Hearing him as he came in, he raised his head in slight bewilderment.

Ning Yixiao averted his gaze, returning to the table he used in the afternoon.
Putting his bag down, he glanced at the seat Su Hui took earlier.
But now it was unoccupied.

The rules of overnight self-study were written on the whiteboard.
The ceiling lights were so glaringly bright.
The winds carried the rain in, so Ning Yixiao got up, planning to close the window.

While standing next to the third-story window, he suddenly noticed someone squatting by the streetlamp downstairs.
Holding a transparent umbrella, his other hand held half a sausage as he fed the stray dog taking shelter under his umbrella.

Probably since his clothes were very familiar, Ning Yixiao instantly recognized Su Hui.
Despite the distance between them, he could still unmistakably see Su Hui’s curved eyes as he softly patted the puppy’s head.

He shut the window and sat down to read.

Not long later, a sound came from the self-study room’s door.
A third person had walked in.
Without even looking up, Ning Yixiao could still guess that it was Su Hui.

When he caught sight of Su Hui’s figure as he sat himself down but spotted no umbrella with him, Ning Yixiao turned his head and saw that the puppy outside the window was still hiding under the transparent umbrella.

Though it was entirely inappropriate, Ning Yixiao suddenly recalled the rumors that Li Cong and his roommates had said and then remembered how Su Hui looked when squeezed next to him underneath his umbrella.

In the quiet atmosphere, he buried himself in the test questions, no longer looking at Su Hui’s side profile.

Each minute and second ticked by.
About two in the morning, that bespectacled boy left the classroom.
Only the two of them sat in the room.

During this time, Su Hui did not glance back a single time.

Ning Yixiao finished two sets of papers and put on his earphones, beginning to work on his listening.

Each different part-time job he squeezed into his schedule had drained his energy.
The moment he stopped moving the pen in his hand, his mind would become beyond exhausted and difficult to work, tottering on the edge of a cliff towards a deep slumber.

He did not remember when he fell asleep.
But when he woke up again, he could faintly see daylight.
In his blurred vision, the entire room seemed to be soaked in the light blue color of the sea in utter silence.

His gaze moved to the seat where Su Hui had sat.
It was empty.
That woke Ning Yixiao up completely.
He pushed himself up with his numbed arms.


He heard that quiet, gentle voice again.
It felt like it had been a very, very long time.
Only when he looked over did he see Su Hui who stood by the window.

Su Hui was smiling, taking down a cigarette from his lips that he had yet to light as he gave him an extremely pure and innocent smile.

Feeling a little dazed, Ning Yixiao did not respond, simply gazing at Su Hui quietly.

Su Hui looked down, stuffing the slim long cigarette back into the black cigarette box before looking up at him.

“You were so sound asleep.” He laughed as he kept the cigarette box.
“I’m envious of your sleep quality.”

A newly awakened Ning Yixio appeared cranky.
He stared at Su Hui for a while before looking at the wall clock after half a beat, discovering that it was four-thirty in the morning.

In his fixed mindset, smokers were never associated with pleasant descriptions: coarse, brutish, depraved, lowly.

Su Hui was none of these.
Yet, he suited the cigarette well.

Indistinct rays of daybreak shrouded his jade-white face, his slim fingers clasping a thin cigarette like collecting a piece of moonlight.

“I was worried you won’t wake up, so I was planning to wait for you while I smoked.” Su Hui picked up his school bag placed on the windowsill.
“It seems a little unsafe to leave you sleeping here alone.”

He carried his school bag and gave Ning Yixiao a pretty smile.
“Since you’re awake, I’m going now.”

Su Hui’s ending words gave off a sort of natural intimacy.
It was likely a trace of having grown up while showered with love.

Probably due to the disconcertment of having just woken up, Ning Yixiao spoke up and stopped him all of a sudden.

“Where are you going?”

Su Hui clearly seemed confused as well.
He stopped in his steps and looked back.
“I’m… going back?”

Ning Yixiao glanced at the time again and his mind immediately woke up.
He gave that smile he always did.
“Your dorm doesn’t have curfew hours?”

Su Hui did not deny it.
After a moment, he responded with a question, “What about you?”

“The curfew ends at six.” Ning Yixiao packed the books on his table into his school bag that was so old that the corners had holes from use.
He stood up then, looking at Su Hui with an amicable smile.

Su Hui stared at Ning Yixiao quietly, watching him approach him with each step before he finally nodded.

It was too early.
There was not a single cafeteria in school that was open at four-thirty, so they could only go out and sit down at the KFC nearest to the school gate.

Ning Yixiao practically never dined outside and so, was not too familiar with KFC’s menu.
He spent a little more time looking before finally ordering the cheapest breakfast set.
Then he waited at the food collection counter at the side, his body half-turned in a way that happened to let him see Su Hui making payment.

It was extremely different from what he imagined.
Su Hui who was rumored to have a rich background was actually taking out rather few notes and coins from his pocket and giving them to the cashier, his movements even slower than his own.

He found that odd, but upon further thought, Su Hui was just a strange person in the first place.

After receiving his food, Ning Yixiao found a seat by the window.
Not long later, Su Hui came too, hand holding a cup of coffee and a red bean pie.

Ning Yixiao did not show too much interest and ate his own food.
He discovered that Su Hui looked a lot like a small animal when he ate.
Taking small bites after small bites, lips closed and making no sound — but he looked like he was enjoying the food very much.

He finished that red bean pie very quickly and downed half of the coffee.

After staring at him for a while, Ning Yixiao still could not resist asking him, “Are you only eating so little?”

Su Hui flattened the wrapping paper of the pie and then nodded.

“You’re full?” Ning Yixiao asked again.

Su Hui met his gaze for a few seconds and then chose to very honestly shake his head.

“Eat this.” Ning Yixiao pushed the mushroom chicken congee in his meal to him.
His tone was gentle.
“I haven’t touched it yet.
I’m not very hungry.”

Su Hui paused.
He did not immediately take it, but upon further urging from Ning Yixiao, only picked up the spoon to slowly take each sip.

When he was halfway through, Ning Yixiao asked, “You didn’t bring money?”

Su Hui rather seriously picked at the mushrooms in the bowl and avoided them carefully.
“I brought a little.
Not much.”

“You don’t have any in your phone?” Ning Yixiao asked again.

Su Hui didn’t seem to find him a strange person trying to glean answers to everything and instead nodded frankly, “No, I don’t though.”

He wore the most branded clothes, and even the price of his school bag made others suck in a deep breath, and had a chauffeur driving him to and  from school.
Yet, he only carried a little money and even the Alipay feature in his phone had been disabled.
These were too weird.

But Su Hui’s expression and that small tone in his response seemed to be proving the truth of these words.

“Then where did you get your cigarettes from?” Ning Yixiao asked.

Su Hui pursed his lips, stirring the warm congee with the spoon.
“I bought the pack.
Because I bought cigarettes, bought an umbrella and even bought some books, I’ve kind of spent almost all the money I have,”

He spoke as he moved the heavy school bag that was next to him on his thighs.
He unzipped it to show Ning Yixiao and even told him that many of the books inside were ones he really liked and had to wait really long for the stock to arrive.

He even bought a sausage for a stray dog.

Ning Yixiao did not really register what Su Hui said.
He remembered how he squatted by the street lamp but did not expose this fact.

After finishing the congee, Su Hui thanked him very sincerely and then told him, “Normally at such times, they don’t really give me money.
They’re worried I’ll spend it too carelessly.”

Ning Yixiao glanced at the bowl.
It was cleaned out quite well, so only a layer of mushroom pieces was left.

He did not understand who the “they” Su Hui mentioned referred to and what “such times” meant.

Su Hui had too many secrets he did not know, and he didn’t seem to plan on telling him either.

Before he could continue asking, Su Hui seemed to have shut the door of providing answers.
He zipped up his bag and smiled at Ning Yixiao.
“I’ll transfer you the money for the congee.
I remember that you added me, right?”

These words strangely soured Ning Yixiao’s mood.

So, Su Hui did not even remember if he had added him at all.
Or should he say that Su Hui could not even count how many people had received his contact the way Ning Yixiao did.

Ning Yixiao did not deny it and grabbed his bag, standing up.
He gently rejected him.
“No need.”

He picked up his tray and lowered his head to give him that usual smile.

“Treat me to a drink the next time we meet.”

Cai: u sour NYX?
Cao: vinegar
Cai: Drinking his own smfh

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