During evening self-study, Wan Da once again presented his idea in a mysterious and grand manner.
"How about it, why don't we add some color to our mundane weekend life? What exactly is going on with the dormitory building? Aren't you all curious? Isn't life about constantly challenging the unknown? Can someone please respond? I feel so unwanted like this."
Xie Yu looked around the classroom, noticing only a few people besides himself, He Chao, and Wan Da. The remaining two boys who usually didn't speak much in class were also present.
Xue Xisheng didn't even lift his head, as if he hadn't heard anything.
He was still struggling with the difficult problem that was beyond the syllabus. His entire being was focused on studying, and everything around him seemed irrelevant.
The other boy was named Ding Lianghua who usually answered questions like a mosquito, with a quiet and timid personality. Wan Da had heard rumors that he had mild social anxiety, but he wasn't sure if it was true or not.
Only Xu Qingqing gave him a little face: "Brother Da, although I am very interested...but my interest is useless, you guys are in the boys' dormitory."
Wan Da replied, "What's wrong with being in the boys' dormitory? As long as you're willing, you can become my Brother Qingqing anytime."
"..." Xu Qingqing threw a piece of eraser at him and said, "Get lost."
Wan Da felt that there was a big gap between his dream and reality. His dream ghost-catching team shouldn't be like this.
He didn't dare to disturb Xue Xisheng, so he went to bother Ding Lianghua instead.
He sat in front of him, and saw that Ding Lianghua trembled all over.
Wan Da leaned forward, while Ding Lianghua dodged backwards. "Brother, what do you think? I'll emphasize again, this is a man's adventure."
Ding Lianghua: "..."
He wasn't good at communicating with people, and it was quite difficult to figure out whether he was willing or not.
Meanwhile, Xie Yu was chatting with Zhou Dalei about random things.
Dalei sent a photo of a chubby orange cat and a little kitten. The little one looked adorable with its soft fur, and both cats even had the same pose with their heads tilted facing the camera.
The background of the photo was Dalei's balcony.
Zhou Dalei: I haven't seen it in a few months, turns out it's gone and had a baby. It looks just like Fatty, so we decided to call it Little Fatty!
Xie Yu laughed and saved the photo.
This chubby orange cat was a beloved pet on Blackwater Street, but its origins were a mystery.
When it first arrived, it wasn't as chubby as it is now. It was skinny and bony. It had probably been wandering for a long time, hiding from people, and no one knew where it slept.
There were many cats and dogs on Blackwater Street, and Aunt Mei and Mother Lei would mix leftover rice and vegetables together, adding fish bones if they had any, and put it in an unused iron basin outside their door.
After a while, the orange cat made itself at home on Blackwater Street.
This orange cat had a strong personality and didn't eat plain rice. If it ate at someone's house, it would stay there at night to catch mice, leaving the place spotless. It even liked to bring the mouse corpses to the doorstep and arrange them in a line.
Zhou Dalei: My mom went all out and cooked a fish specifically for it. She said she felt like the house wasn't clean during the months it was gone...Auntie Wang next door also cooked one. One steamed the fish and another braised it, they're competing to see who can fatten it up more.
Xie Yu: You need to reflect on why you're not living as well as a cat.
Zhou Dalei: ...
Wan Da bothered Ding Lianghua for a while, and it's unclear if it's because he was too annoying, but Ding Lianghua eventually nodded.
He Chao was originally thinking about how to get out of it, with over a dozen scenarios flashing through his mind. But then he found out that Ding Lianghua was also participating: "Him? The guy who trembles when he goes on stage to speak?"
Xie Yu didn't have much of an impression or opinion on Ding Lianghua.
"Even he's going." He Chao threw his phone and leaned back in his chair, suddenly feeling a surge of fighting spirit.
Xie Yu thought to himself, Don't be fooled by his appearance, I think they're at least braver than you.
Finally, when Wan Da came to ask the two big shots in the last row, He Chao slammed the table and said, "A man's adventure, if you don't go, you're not a man. Don't be afraid, Brother Chao will cover you."
Wan Da: "From now on, you're my real brother. You're too cool, you're simply the a man among men."
Xie Yu sneered on the spot.
That night, the four of them agreed to meet at He Chao's dormitory room and wait for the knock on the door after midnight.
Xie Yu was close to He Chao's dormitory and wasn't in a hurry. He planned to do another set of test papers, but He Chao called him several times urging him to come over.
Xie Yu was still drying his hair, with water droplets constantly dripping down from the tips of his hair. "You're annoying."
He Chao said, "Hurry up and come over, I'll show you a big treasure."
This guy was really annoying.
With a towel hanging around his neck, Xie Yu strolled down the hallway and pushed open the door. "What's wrong with you."
"It'll be done soon," He Chao replied, still writing without looking up. His hand movements were wild and the writing was already messy, making it impossible to tell what he was actually writing.
Xie Yu approached and saw a long strip of paper on the table, covered in twisted and ambiguous drawings with a yin-yang symbol in the center.
Xie Yu had a vague idea of what it was and stopped rubbing his hair: "This is..."
"This is the most powerful folk exorcism technique, the Ghost-Sealing Talisman," He Chao explained.
Xie Yu's hair was damp, and he wore a simple t-shirt with a towel draped over his head. He looked at He Chao, and for some inexplicable reason, He Chao felt like his eyes were also damp, soft, and yet cold when they met his gaze.
After staring at the "Ghost-Sealing Talisman" for a while, Xie Yu finally said, "Wow, amazing."
Wan Da was the third to arrive, wearing a cartoon pajama with a yellow SpongeBob SquarePants pattern, carrying a backpack and a flashlight in his hand.
"Brother Chao, I'm here! Wow, Brother Yu, you got here pretty early," Wan Da pushed open the door and walked in. "I brought a flashlight, you guys should bring one too. If that ghost is a powerful one, it might even turn off all the lights in the entire building."
Xie Yu questioned the classic plot of supernatural novels, "Why do you think the flashlight won't be affected?"
Wan Da: "..." He was suddenly at a loss for words.
Since it was still early, the three of them played a round of the sniper game together.
There was only one chair in the room, and if you didn't sit in the chair, you could only sit on the bed. Wan Da didn't dare touch He Chao's bed, so he could only turn to Xie Yu and say, "Brother Yu, can you get up for a bit? I...I like sitting in the chair."
Soon, Wan Da realized how terrible it was to play games with these two people.
Xie Yu played as if he was in a solo game, carefree and free-spirited, completely disregarding his other two teammates. Meanwhile, He Chao didn't even consider Wan Da: "I have something good here, Old Xie, come over and take it. Where are you? Come and get it."
"Brother Chao, I, I'm your teammate too," Wan Da was on the verge of tears. "Can you help me out? I'm so poor."
Only then did He Chao glance at Wan Da's position and give this teammate some attention. But after looking, he said, "You're too far, you'll have to work hard on your own."
Wan Da: "..."
It was almost eleven o'clock when Ding Lianghua finally arrived.
"I thought you weren't coming. Sit down," He Chao moved over and patted the bed.
Ding Lianghua didn't have much contact with He Chao usually, and he felt a bit awkward standing at the door. He instinctively looked at Wan Da, who understood and offered him half of a chair. "Do you like sitting on chairs too? Come on."
Ding Lianghua sat down carefully.
He Chao was puzzled, "What's wrong with you two?"
Xie Yu's hair was almost dry, and he took off the towel and casually placed it on He Chao's table.
"We should plan tonight's operation," Wan Da said excitedly. "To be honest, Brother Yu, you really surprised me. I thought you wouldn't participate..." Since you're so anti-social.
"I'm just here to watch the show," Xie Yu replied.
It was half past midnight.
Outside the window, it was pitch black and the dormitory was unusually quiet.
With most of the residents gone for the weekend, the echoes of footsteps on the ground seemed louder than usual. Looking down the hallway at the endless rows of doors, there was a hint of dizziness.
Wan Da softened his breathing and was the first to push open the door.
The sound of the door opening added to the eerie atmosphere.
He Chao remained motionless.
"Come on, Brother Chao, what are you doing?" Wan Da turned back and asked. Xie Yu was standing behind He Chao, blocked by him and unable to leave. He patted He Chao's shoulder and said, "Cover me...Brother Chao. You are the man among men."
He Chao: "..."
He Chao had made a lot of progress tonight, perhaps due to the courage brought by the Ghost-Sealing Talisman. After waiting for about half an hour, they started chatting aimlessly out of boredom.
"Ding Hualiang, you..."
"He's called Ding Lianghua."
"Sorry, I didn't have much of an impression."
"But I bet Old Xie doesn't even know your last name is Ding."
Wan Da was laughing and asking Xie Yu if he really didn't know, telling him not to take the blame for He Chao's careless words, when ther was a faint knocking on the door.
Everyone fell silent.
Just as Wan Da was about to say "maybe it's just a hallucination," there was another loud "thud."
The sound seemed distant, as if it was muffled by something, but it echoed through the empty hallway and up the stairs.
"Tonight's knocking isn't on the third floor," Wan Da's voice trembled, "it's...it's downstairs."
Years later, when Xie Yu looked back on his high school years, he would never forget this night.
The series of intellectually disabled plot developments and a mentally challenged ending were secondary.
There was a big idiot who was clearly trembling with fear, yet he still shoved the talisman into his hand.
He Chao stuffed the ugly talisman to Xie Yu. The talisman paper was already wrinkled and still warm from his palm. He Chao nervously stared in the direction of the stairs, his actions all subconscious. He patted Xie Yu's head reassuringly, "Don't be afraid, I'll cover you."
Xie Yu looked down at the paper, feeling a bit stunned.