Translator: xallisonjanex, Let4, renkun27
The beginning of spring was sweeping with an unstoppable flavor. As it warmed up, the green leaves, flowers, and even the gloomy school building became brighter. The pen that was rotating between Zhi Li’s fingers fell onto the book. Ke Bu supported his chin with his hands and looked quite indolent. He looked at the professor who was diligently imparting knowledge, then his eyes moved on to Zhi Li. His slender nape, spotless side features, and long eyelashes under the shady light looked even more beautiful. Ke Bu liked the word beautiful and preferred to use this adjective for Zhi Li. He deserved it.
The bell which signified the end of class rang sharply and the quiet classroom became noisy. Zhi Li noticed the gaze in his direction, but just when he turned his head to make eye contact with that person, Ke Bu dodged his eyes in a flurry.
Ke Bu did not bother too much with the lovelorn questions: Do you love me? Have you ever loved someone more than me? Do you love me more than I love you? Will you stop loving me one day? Ke Bu believed that obsessing over with this kind of problem in itself was sowing discord in love. He did not understand what the true meaning of love was. He only wanted to be with Zhi Li without any distractions, restrictions, nor many demands.
He took out the book he had borrowed from the library and browsed through it. Although Ke Bu was not as fond as Youyan when it comes to reading, he did have his own preference. He liked Friedrich Nietzsche—his hard-to-understand words, bold language, and even the slight eccentricity—conceited, yet could arouse sympathy.
I am on the road where fate is prescribed for me. Although I am not willing to walk on this road, I have no choice but to walk on this road with grief and indignation.
Ke Bu remembered his foreign teacher in senior high school. At that time, his English was so bad that he could hardly communicate with this foreign teacher who did not know much Chinese. However, one time after class, the foreigner, who had red hair and white skin, stepped on the bottom of the podium stand while smoking a cigarette. There was everything in his eyes, and yet nothing. That expression had left a very deep impression on Ke Bu.
Out of curiosity about foreigners, Ke Bu sent a text message to the foreign teacher. Every time he sent a message, Ke Bu had to spend a lot of time finding the translation online. The foreign teacher asked Ke Bu who his favorite author was and Ke Bu briefly answered ‘Friedrich Nietzsche.’ The foreign teacher started laughing with ‘a-ha’ and told him that the first book he had ever read in his life was written by Friedrich Nietzsche.
Finally, the day before the foreign teacher left, he gave a disc to Ke Bu. There was something written with a black marker on the cover of the disc. His classmate beside him picked it up and translated it for Ke Bu: “Although you often couldn’t express what you wanted to say, I still know what you wanted to say.” This sentence became something that could move Ke Bu when he recalled it even many years after.
He did not know why he suddenly remembered such a trivial matter of the past. When his awareness came back, Zhi Li was already sitting beside him. He took the book from Ke Bu and looked at the cover. “Friedrich Nietzsche?”
“Hmn,” Ke Bu answered superficially. At the moment, he did not want to encounter the question ‘So you…a little guy still pretending to read this kind of book?’ coming from Zhi Li. Zhi Li, however, had never given up his excessively gentle, yet poisonous tongue.
“Here, my biggest pain is loneliness…This loneliness is attributed to the inability of individuals to reach a consensus with the world. When I reach these heights, I realize that I am always alone. No one talks to me. The lonely winter makes me tremble. At the top, what exactly is my purpose?”
Surprised, Ke Bu looked at Zhi Li beside him. “You’ve read it?”
“Probably in junior high.”
“I don’t remember seeing you holding any book when we were in junior high.”
“Well, it’s like this.” Zhi Li placed the book back in Ke Bu’s hand. “I just came back from the library on that day I met you.” Ke Bu could not help but believe that this kind of thing was fate. Ke Bu looked at his watch. It was almost time for the class bell to ring. Zhi Li stood up and Ke Bu called him, “Hey, do you have any plans this Sunday?”
“May I ask if you‘re free this Sunday?”
“Let’s go out and play.”
Ke Bu pushed Zhi Li out of his seat. “You must be secretly happy, right? After all, I’m inviting you to go on a date,” Ke Bu said proudly, then Zhi Li asked, “Is it necessary to be secretly happy over this?”
“Don’t use that kind of expression to hit my pride.”
On Sunday, Ke Bu waited at the bus station with his hands in his pockets. Begrudgingly, Chu Haoyu appeared. “Hey! You two, are you going to the city? What a coincidence. I’m also going there to buy something. Let’s go together.”
“You really have the nerve.” Ke Bu looked unwilling.
“That’s your attitude. Even if you’re not willing to, Zhi Li never said so, right?” Chu Haoyu grinned cheekily as he placed his hand over Zhi Li’s shoulder. Zhi Li indifferently looked down at the hand that was clasping his shoulder, then Chu Haoyu quickly retracted his hand.
The bus slowly came to a stop at the platform. Ke Bu got on the bus, followed by Zhi Li. After that, Chu Haoyu got on the bus and stood at the door.
“I’m going to kick you, is that okay?” At that moment, the door was about to close and Zhi Li kicked Chu Haoyu out of the bus. Ke Bu calmly said, “That’s not very nice.”
“I’ve consulted him.”
Zhi Li went further onto the bus and sat on a vacant spot along the aisle. Ke Bu paid the fare, then walked to Zhi Li’s side, and sat on the seat by the window. So, he still remembered. All of the little things had accumulated and became a habit between the two of them. As the bus slowly moved forward, he looked at the students laughing, and outside was familiar scenery. Ke Bu stuck his face against the window and spoke, “Zhi Li, male, good-looking, excellent grades, outstanding in many aspects, can’t stand the heat, only drinks mineral water and milk, occasionally tries coffee, very hard to amuse, very possessive, the mouth is both very sweet and very bad, doesn’t like fine noodles, doesn’t like being touched on the head by others, doesn’t like to repeat himself, doesn’t like being called baby, doesn’t like vanilla-flavored popsicles, doesn’t like gourds or melons such as winter melons and bitter gourds, doesn’t like sweets especially candies, doesn’t like to express his love when chatting in QQ, doesn’t like to chat over the phone, likes to say the word ‘what,’ likes blue, likes to draw though isn’t very good at it, likes to tease people, and likes a boy named Ke Bu. There‘re very few things that he likes so the boy by the name of Ke Bu doesn’t need to worry about being squeezed out of his position.”
After this long line of words, Ke Bu looked at the reflection of Zhi Li’s face on the window. “How was it? I made a summary report of you over the last six years. Any questions?”
“This situation should be answered in two ways. What does Ke Bu like the least?”
“Cold, sports, goat meat, innocence, idol dramas, and family.” Ke Bu snorted and grinned. “What does Ke Bu like?”
“Dressing up like a bear in winter, money, not exerting energy, foolishly arguing, ridiculing others, half willing and half unwilling when having sex, and family.”
“I’m not happy at all listening to you.” Ke Bu gritted his teeth and said, “It seems you’re also well aware there’s no you in the list of things I like.”
“You only asked what you like.” The bus bumped on the stones along the road. The sound of Zhi Li’s voice mixed with the heavy breathing, noises, snoring, and Ke Bu’s heartbeat. “You didn’t ask what you like the most.”
“You! You’re overdoing your self-confidence. But it seems you do quite like this Ke Bu. You even managed to blurt out his preferences.”
“Maybe. Good thing he’s not here. If not, he’ll get jealous when he sees me with you.”
Ke Bu laughed out loud and his face that was pressed against the window became deformed, leaving a shallow impression. When the bus reached their destination, Ke Bu jumped off and stretched. What do you need to do next when going on a date? Ke Bu took out his little notebook from his bag: Shop, eat, shop again, eat again, movies, go home. Tsk, this itinerary’s full, but with meaningless stuff.
“Do you have anything you want to buy?”
“I can give you a gift.” Shouldn’t he be the one saying this? Ke Bu thought indignantly. Since you don’t want to open that golden mouth of yours, then let me remind you. Zhi Li thought and said, “Sports car.”
“How can I give that to you as a present?!?”
“Then don’t ask.”
“Okay then. Let’s go to the bookstore and get the books for Youyan first.” The two walked to the bookstore and Ke Bu widened the distance between the two of them.
“Thanks to your attitude problems, I decided to move separately. Goodbye.” After saying that, he was the first to disappear into the bookstore. After finding Youyan’s books, Ke Bu looked around and confirmed that there was no Zhi Li. He picked up a blue sketchbook and placed it underneath the other books. When the clerk was ready to check out, Ke Bu called out, “Quickly.”
Zhi Li looked at Ke Bu indifferently and said, “Don’t do shameful things when you’re with me.” It was not until Ke Bu saw the clerk pack the sketchbook in the bag that he was relieved. He threw a contemptuous look at Zhi Li and said, “I’m sorry if I’m too embarrassing.” After Zhi Li paid, Ke Bu carried the books and left the bookstore. “Shouldn’t you be carrying these?”
“You have no hands?”
“Do you or do you not understand dating guides?” Ke Bu threw the books in his hands into Zhi Li’s chest.
Next, they busied themselves with the boring stuff. After they finished watching the movie, as the two walked out of the cinema, Ke Bu looked at the freezer outside the store and approached it. “I can’t believe they already started selling popsicles in this season. Boss, give me two.”
The two stood in front of the station with their popsicles. Currently, there was no one else at the bus stop, leaving only the sound of Ke Bu eating his popsicle. “Wow, it’s cold.” Ke Bu kept the vanilla-flavored popsicle in his mouth and said, “Oh right, I remember you still owe me 1.50 for the popsicle last time.”
“That’s not the flavor I like.”
“You shameless devil. I’ll keep on pestering you until you pay up.” As Ke Bu took another bite of the popsicle, he reached into the bag that Zhi Li was carrying and took out the sketchbook. “This is for you. A gift for our first date.”
Zhi Li looked at the blue sketchbook. “This is to return the gesture.” Zhi Li leaned in. As his lips closed in, Ke Bu blocked his mouth with the back of his hand. “It’s not the flavor that you like right now.”
There was still a hint of vanilla in his mouth. Zhi Li pulled down Ke Bu’s hand. “That’s alright.” Zhi Li’s breath had melted the scent of vanilla away and also that piece of ice.
The next day, Ke Bu threw the bag of books to Su Youyan. After Su Youyan counted the books, she passed one of them to Ke Bu. Ke Bu took it. The author’s name was written in gold on the hardcover: Friedrich Nietzsche.