"Next stop, Blackwater Street. Passengers who wish to get off, please prepare to exit from the back door."
The bus departed from the outskirts of city B and made a slow turn into the commercial street, which was bustling with pedestrians and intersecting roads.
The voice of the announcer was clear and precise, with a deliberate upward inflection at the end of each sentence, sounding almost robotic.
Xie Yu sat in the corner of the last row, turning his head to glance at the scorching sun outside the window. He felt the air conditioning was too cold, yet at the same time, he felt hot.
The bus was already moving slowly, and now it was surrounded by a sea of people, reducing its speed to that of an antique car. Just as it hit a red light, the long body of the bus shook violently and came to a gradual stop.
Xie Yu held his phone and looked out the window while waiting for the other person to answer the call.
After several beeps, the familiar and noisy voice finally came through.
Following that was a woman's voice, even louder than the chaos in the background. Her voice was bold and a bit hoarse, as if she was arguing with someone.
"Who knows when those six trucks will arrive? There's no definite answer. Those bastards keep dragging their feet," she exclaimed.
"One moment they say it's tomorrow, the next they say it's the day after. In the end, they just tell me they don't know... damn it!" she continued.
Xie Yu calmly listened to the woman's cursing.
"What's the point of urging them? They don't even have the guts to answer the phone now. They're playing hide and seek with me. Those worthless pieces of shit. They don't even bother to go out and ask around. Who in Blackwater Street dares to mess with me, Xu Yanmei?"
As the barrage of foul language continued, seemingly without end, Xie Yu finally spoke up to remind the other person, "Auntie Mei."
Instantly, all the profanity came to a halt.
Xu Yanmei waved her hand at the others and closed her mouth, even extinguishing the cigarette she had been holding between her fingers without hesitation.
She then gestured towards the phone on the table, indicating that the "Six Goods Truck Late Delivery Condemnation Meeting" could be adjourned.
After putting out her cigarette, she retracted her long legs that had been stretched out across the simple office desk. Her tone was unexpectedly gentle, unlike the crazed woman who had been spewing vulgarities just moments before.
"We just gathered together during our lunch break to chat and have some fun. There's nothing serious going on. Sometimes, it's good for our mood to let out some foul language in this mundane life..."
Xie Yu didn't expose her lie, and instead asked, "Smoking, is it good for your health?"
Xu Yanmei was reeking of nicotine, but she lied with her eyes open, thinking that this brat couldn't possibly crawl out of the phone anyway.
"I haven't smoked. After you stopped me from smoking, I quit. Hey, don't bring it up, I'm afraid I'll relapse if you do. Don't stimulate me."
She pretended well, but who was stimulating whom?
Listening to her increasingly hoarse smoker's voice, which only became clear when she cursed someone, Xie Yu could easily tell whether she was telling the truth or not.
"Are you on vacation now? Your mom told me a while ago that you finished your last exam on the 20th, but you never replied to my messages." Xu Yanmei continued to change the subject, saying, "How did you do on the exam? I searched online for a long time to find those sentences. They were all so wordy and verbose that I almost got sick of it while searching."
'In the face of the exam, don't hesitate. Just do your best and set sail for your dreams in the exam room. Let your life roam freely in the ocean of knowledge! Kid, good luck on your exam!'--this text message was unoriginal, full of clichés, and completely out of touch with modern teenage aesthetics, but Xie Yu could recite it word for word.
The bus happened to enter a tunnel, blocking out the scorching sunlight outside and casting a shadow over everything around them.
Xie Yu was already dressed in all black, and now he was completely hidden in the darkness. He leaned back and stretched his two long legs, which had been cramped together due to the lack of space.
He casually joked, "Why are you still looking? You already know my results. What do you want me to say? Thanks for the encouragement, I'll try my best not to come in last place?"
After resting for less than two minutes, someone on the side of Comrade Xu Yanmei shouted, "This is a black market, right? What wholesale market? The prices are so high, it's obvious that you're trying to rip people off."
"What did you say?" Xu Yanmei couldn't hear Xie Yu's response because of the commotion. "It's too damn noisy, and now a group of idiots want to smash the store. I'll buy a megaphone tomorrow, and I don't believe I can't shut these bastards up."
Xie Yu's fingers tightened slightly around the phone as he hesitated to speak.
"It's nothing," he finally said. "I saw your message, but I was busy studying and forgot to reply."
"Okay, okay. Although your grades are a little lower, don't be discouraged. We can't give up until the last moment. Who's afraid of who?"
As Xu Yanmei spoke, her voice grew louder. She covered the receiver and shouted at the persistent customers who were trying to cheat her.
"What are you doing? It's people like you who are the scammers. If you don't want to buy, then don't stand here!"
The train emerged from the tunnel, and the sunlight poured in, illuminating the entire carriage from front to back.
Xie Yu squinted his eyes slightly and recognized the familiar scenery outside the window. He knew they were almost at their destination.
Today is Monday, the third day of summer vacation and a workday. There aren't many people on the bus.
Several students sit in the front row, the girls with their hair tied up in ponytails, carrying their backpacks obediently and dressed in clean white clothes for their outing.
Although this area of Blackwater Street is considered a commercial district, prices are not high and it cannot be described as bustling. The street construction is poor, and the buildings are old.
However, this low-cost lifestyle and culture attract many people who cannot afford high consumption, especially middle and high school students.
Xie Yu stares at the glass pendant on the girl's hairband, which is transparent with a hint of pink shining through the light.
"We've arrived, get ready to get off." The girl with the ponytail stands up, holding onto the pole. "I had stir-fried rice cakes here last time, I'll take you guys there."
Meanwhile... "The train has arrived at Blackwater Street South Station. Passengers who are ready to get off, please use the back door. Thank you for your cooperation."
As the train slowly came to a stop, a wave of heat mixed with hot wind rushed in through the open doors.
Xu Yanmei thought she had misheard: "Hey, where are you, you little rascal? Why did I hear the announcement for Blackwater Street?"
Xie Yu stood up to get off the train: "Comrade Xu Yanmei, I will be at Guangmao's entrance in ten minutes. Think about how to get rid of the smell of smoke on your clothes, think about how to explain to me, and also think about what you promised me in the first place. Come see me with your head held high."
Xu Yanmei turned her head and glanced at the ashtray on her desk filled with cigarette butts: "..."
"Sister Mei, what's wrong? Why do you look so worried?"
Xu Yanmei pushed open the door and walked out, rolling up her sleeves to help the shopkeepers in the warehouse: "Don't even mention it, it's been frustrating me to death."
Xu Yanmei runs a clothing wholesale market on Blackwater Street. She has been in the clothing business for over a decade.
At first, she and a few girlfriends set up a stall at the street corner. Later, they established a proper shop and eventually took over two floors of the central Guangmao Building in Blackwater Street.
These two floors house hundreds of small shops, forming a "wholesale market."
As the boss lady of the wholesale market, Sister Mei's reputation in Blackwater Street is well-known. She is not only a powerful and righteous woman, but also a heroine among women.
"Are you really worried? I feel like you can't even hide your smile," one of the shopkeepers said.
Xu Yanmei said, "What nonsense are you talking about? By the way, do you have any perfume or something? Spray some on me. Little Yu will be here soon, and I smell like smoke all over. If he catches me like this, he'll definitely scold me."
The shopkeeper stood up and patted the dust off his pants. "So it's your precious son. Look at you, you're so scared. I have some perfume. Let me find it for you."
"How can I not be scared? Our Little Yu is a good boy." Xu Yanmei spoke softly, exerting force on her hand as she used a small knife to cut open a bag of ropes.
She muttered to herself, "I can't set a bad example for him."
"...He's not even your biological son, just your godson."
"What good boy? My son is in the same class as Xie Yu, who is a troublemaker. Not only are his grades bad, but no one in the class dares to sit with him. He seems to be some kind of school gang leader, always causing trouble. Only Sister Mei treats him like a precious treasure and doesn't even swear in front of him."
"I heard he cheated on the high school entrance exam. With his grades, he must have cheated to get in. Even though Second High School isn't a great school, the bottom-ranked regular high school is still a regular high school."
"Okay, let's stop talking about it and get back to work."
By the time Xu Yanmei finished untying the ropes, the group of gossiping employees had dispersed and were each standing in front of their narrow stalls, shouting at the top of their lungs: "Two for 99, two for 99! Don't miss out today or you'll have to wait until next year! All down jackets are on clearance at a loss!"
"Take a look, two for 99!"
Xu Yanmei walked by with a strong scent of perfume.
"If anything happens while I'm gone, give me a call. And those ignorant fools, don't bother reasoning with them. Just curse them out, what's the point of reasoning with fools? Reasoning is for people who can understand, not for fools."
Xie Yu took a detour and ran to three grocery stores before finally finding a speaker with a built-in amplifier. It was red and white, buried under a pile of goods.
Despite the layer of dust, the store owner demonstrated its powerful function by immediately plugging it in and playing the song, "Damn Tender". The function was indeed powerful, almost deafening.
Xie Yu was so shaken by the sound that his ears hurt. He asked while pulling out his wallet, "Alright, how much is it?"
The shopkeeper was closer to the loudspeaker and didn't hear the five words that Xie Yu had just said.
He wiped the dust off his head with his sleeve and shouted at the top of his lungs to promote his goods.
Despite his old age, he could still scream at a high pitch: "Durable! If it's not good, you can return it! Guaranteed!"
"The quality is guaranteed! If there's a problem, just come to me! This small shop won't change its name or surname! We take all kinds of bank cards!"
A hand stretched out horizontally in front of the old man, slender with distinct knuckles and clean fingernails.
Xie Yu pressed the switch button expressionlessly, and finally his ears were quiet. "How much?"
The old man gestured with his fingers to indicate the price, then said, "Do you want it? If you do, I'll help you wrap it up."
Without even waiting for Xie Yu to nod, the old man picked up a plastic bag and stuffed the loudspeaker inside. He quickly pulled out a few sheets of unknown origin from a thick stack of paper on the table and stuffed them into the plastic bag as well.
'Women's hospital, painless abortion.'
'Men's blessing, second one half price.'
Running a grocery store wasn't enough, he also had the responsibility of distributing flyers. He gained a new understanding of the people's drive and business level in Blackwater Street.
The old man wasn't done yet, he threw in a few more flyers.
From the overall color, it was clear that none of the flyers were duplicates: "Side job, side job. Responding to the party's call, actively striving for a comfortable life, struggling for wealth... Here's your change, take it and come back again."