Everyone from the Tech school wore gray sportswear with a blue vertical stripe on the sleeve. It's their school uniform and people from No. 2 High School avoid them when they see them near the school to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Shen Jie kept his hands in his pockets the whole time, secretly observing the shop and the people at the nearby tables.
Just as He Chao was looking at the menu, someone at the table next to them banged on the table with their glass and said in a rude tone, "Bring us another case of beer!"
Shen Jie shifted his gaze back to his own table and saw that his brother was also looking at the drinks menu. He Chao pointed to the menu and said, "How about a green bean soup?"
Xie Yu's fingertip rested just below He Chao's finger, less than half an inch away. "I'll have this."
"Mineral water again," He Chao said, "Your life is so dull."
Shen Jie watched as the two of them decided what to drink and began to choose dishes. He felt like an invisible person. After a while, he spoke up, "Don't...don't you guys want to ask me what I want to drink? I mean, I'm here too."
"Just order whatever you want to eat or drink," He Chao didn't even look up, then turned to ask Xie Yu, "Do you eat this?"
Damn it, I shouldn't have come to this meal. You two can eat without me.
Shen Jie held his chopsticks, feeling complicated.
The table next to them was very noisy, with the constant sound of beer bottle caps being opened. There was also a girl there, wearing a short skirt, with a row of ear piercings and big hoop earrings, and a loud voice.
"Hey sister-in-law, when is Trash Brother coming? Hurry up, give him a call and remind him," a drunken man swayed his wine bottle and said, "We've already had almost two rounds of drinks, if he doesn't come soon...hiccup."
Big Round Earrings picked up the phone on the table and said readily, "Okay, I'll remind him."
In fact, Shen Jie wasn't picky about food, but these two people in front of him were just too much. He Chao ordered a bowl of noodles and specifically asked to leave out the cilantro. Shen Jie couldn't help but ask, "Why don't you want it?"
As soon as he spoke, he regretted it.
Because He Chao said, "The little friend doesn't eat it."
Shen Jie: "..." He was already full before he even started eating.
And with Xie Yu's long list of dietary restrictions, who could remember them all.
Xie Yu didn't have much of an appetite. After sitting in the sun for most of the day, he only ate a few bites of vegetables and half a bowl of noodles before putting down his chopsticks and heading to the front desk to pay.
As he stood up, another person walked into the small restaurant.
Xie Yu caught a glimpse of the person out of the corner of his eye, but didn't pay much attention as he lowered his head to scan the QR code on his phone. "One hundred and two yuan?" he asked.
The owner of the restaurant double-checked the order on her calculator, afraid of undercharging, before nodding and saying, "Yes, that's right."
"Trash Brother!" The people at the table next to them stopped eating and stood up, applauding and welcoming the latecomer. "You're seven bottles behind! We've been waiting for you for so long. You have to drink for us, or it won't be fair!"
The man was wearing the uniform of the Tech school, with a loose sports jacket covering his body. Although he was tall, he had an ordinary appearance and could not be recognized in a crowd. The only distinctive feature was the scar on his forehead, which extended from his hairline to his eyebrows.
"Trash Brother," Shen Jie whispered, not daring to look up, "isn't he the one who stabbed someone with a knife?"
Shen Jie didn't look up, so he didn't see the unnatural expression on He Chao's face, nor did he see He Chao's hand, which was about to pick up some food, suddenly stop and then put the chopsticks down on the table without continuing to eat.
Shen Jie continued to mutter, "I think I heard about this person when Wan Da was talking about the top ten people in the Tech school. He's quite fierce, and it's said that he has over seventy subordinates. When others fight, he just squats on top of a trash can and watches, so he's nicknamed 'Trash Brother'."
As Shen Jie was speaking, he noticed that one of the "Top Ten people in the Tech SChool" had frozen in place. He became stiff and could only sneak a peek through the gap between his wrist and elbow, lowering his head to see a pair of Nike sneakers. "..."
Shen Jie wondered if he had spoken too loudly and was overheard. He then began to ponder whether the three of them, including Brother Chao and Big Boss Yu, could defeat their opponent.
While still calculating their combat power, Trash Brother suddenly called out, "He Chao?"
Xie Yu returned after paying the bill and saw this scene.
A person in the Tech school uniform was holding a bottle of beer, standing opposite He Chao, and slamming the bottle cap against the edge of the table. With a forceful twist of the wrist, the cap popped off and fell to the ground.
The cap rolled crisply on the ground for two circles.
Then the man handed the beer bottle to He Chao, intentions unclear, "Give me some face?"
He Chao didn't take it and smiled, "Old friend, it's been three years, no need to be so enthusiastic."
Neither of them explicitly showed any hostility, and the provocation in their words was almost imperceptible if one didn't listen carefully. But Xie Yu leaned against the wall and saw it all. He could tell at a glance that He Chao's smile was extremely insincere.
"Trash Brother," someone at the nearby table asked, "What's going on? Do you know him?"
Then they all chimed in, "Looks like he's from No. 2 High School based on his uniform."
Earlier, He Chao had been facing away from them, and they were already drunk when he walked in, so they didn't pay much attention. But now, after taking a closer look, someone who knew about the "outstanding figures" from No. 2 High School was shocked, "Oh my god, isn't this He Chao from No. 2 High School."
After speaking, the man lowered his voice and added, "...The one over there, it's Xie Yu?"
Trash Brother didn't ask He Chao to drink anymore. He tilted his head back and finished the whole bottle himself. Amidst the cheers, he wiped his mouth and lifted the empty bottle, saying, "If you hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have remembered. Three years, time flies so damn fast."
Trash Brother took two steps forward and said, "Since you have such a good memory, do you remember what I said back then? I said, 'Don't let me see you again.' Do you remember?"
The atmosphere was ambiguous just now, but now it was clear that he was going to cause trouble.
The people at the two tables over there didn't watch the show anymore. They stood up and the chairs made a harsh sound as they were pushed back on the ground.
With one hand pressed against the table, He Chao still wore his "Love and Peace" shirt, though the words seemed ironic in this situation. It was like naming a group chat "Let's not fight" while constantly shouting "I'll kill your whole family" in it.
After a moment of silence, He Chao spoke up, "You can settle things with me directly. Let them leave first."
Shen Jie, one of the "them" in He Chao's words, sat there with chopsticks in hand, unsure of what to do. Even a fool could sense that the atmosphere was off. He put down his chopsticks and said, "We're not leaving. Brothers don't abandon each other in times like this. Brother Chao, there's nothing to fear. We'll face it head on. We still have Old Xie, who can take on seven by himself."
If it were any other time, He Chao would have patted him on the shoulder and said: The name 'Old Xie' is for you to call?
But He Chao just said, "What head on, this has nothing to do with you guys, hurry up and leave."
"Brothers?" Trash Brother laughed, as if those two words had hit some funny bone in him. He laughed exaggeratedly, clutching his stomach and bending over, taking a while to stop. He wiped away the tears from his laughter and said, "...this little student here, you call him your brother, do you know what your Brother Chao is best at?"
As Trash Brother spoke, his tone slowed down more and more, until he finally took a few seconds to say, "He's best at stabbing his brothers in the back."
He Chao didn't say anything.
Or rather, the whole room suddenly fell into a strange silence.
These two people standing face to face clearly had some kind of history, and it seemed quite exciting. Even Shen Jie couldn't help but wonder, what kind of backstabbing was He Chao capable of?
Only Xie Yu leaned against the wall, watching the scene unfold like a spectator at a play. This person, who according to Shen Jie had no interest in gossip and could take on seven at once, lazily interrupted, "Stop talking nonsense, I don't want to listen. Do you want to fight one by one or all at once?"
Trash Brother: "..."
In the end, the fight broke out, and Xie Yu proved to be a skilled provocateur.
It was unclear who started it, but soon plates, food, and wine bottles were shattered on the ground.
Xie Yu swung a chair and saw Shen Jie being surrounded by three people. After quickly dealing with his own opponents, Xie Yu let go of the chair, which landed with a loud thud. Then, he kicked it over, hitting the legs of the three attackers.
These people were no match for Xie Yu's skills. The only trouble was the girl among them. He couldn't touch her and was afraid of accidentally hurting her.
The owner of the small restaurant near the Tech school was clearly experienced and unfazed. She sat at the front desk, calmly punching numbers into the calculator, calculating how much compensation she should ask for later.
He Chao and Trash Brother faced off, with He Chao initially holding back and not fighting back much. But Trash Brother had no intention of letting him off easy, and each move was more vicious than the last.
He Chao's temper was not saintly, and after a few rounds, he was getting annoyed. "Have you had enough."
Trash Brother said something in a low voice that only the two of them could hear, and then He Chao swung his fist.
"You're a rotten person, He Chao," Trash Brother was hit in the stomach and fell down, propping himself up on a chair. He smirked and said, "Are you still at No. 2 High School?"
After striking that punch, He Chao seemed to have exhausted all his strength, and with the memories that kept running in his mind, his whole brain felt dizzy.
A vein on his forehead was pulsing.
He stood still for a long time until Xie Yu called out to him, "Let's go."
On the way back, no one spoke.
Xie Yu was really not interested in this matter...or rather, he couldn't say he wasn't interested. If He Chao was willing to talk, he reluctantly could listen, but if it was someone else, he probably wouldn't even want to listen.
Thinking of this, Xie Yu suddenly realized. When did He Chao become an exception to him?
Shen Jie walked to the intersection and had to say goodbye. This broke the silence, and he waved to them, saying, "I'm going back first. Be careful on the way."
"Is your injury okay?" He Chao stood under the street lamp with his hands in his pockets. "...How are you going to explain it to your mom when you go back?"
Shen Jie touched the small wound on his face. "It's nothing, I'll just say I fell."
He Chao extended his hand from his pocket and waved at him. "Alright then, be safe on your way back."
Xie Yu looked at He Chao's profile and felt a bit dizzy.
This person was clearly exploding with emotions, yet he was still worried about whether Shen Jie would get scolded when he got home.
Evening self-study was almost over, and there was no point in going back to the classroom. They might as well go straight back to the dormitory. Before they entered the building, He Chao suddenly said, "I'm sorry."
"Sorry for what?"
"Just, for the dinner tonight," He Chao scratched his head. "It turned out like this."
As He Chao walked up to the door of his dorm room, he appeared to be in his usual state, even smiling and telling him to go to bed early.
Xie Yu asked him, "Are you okay?"
Upon hearing these three words, He Chao hesitated for a moment before saying, "Ah, I'm fine."
He spoke as if it were true.
If Xie Yu hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and seen He Chao sitting on the stairs smoking, he might have actually believed him.
The handsome youth sat on the highest step, cigarette between his fingers. When he took a drag, the ember at the end of the cigarette suddenly lit up, flickering in the dim light.
The stairwell motion sensor light didn't turn on, and the only light came from the extremely faint glow coming from the hallway.
Then the handsome youth lowered his head and slowly exhaled a puff of smoke. With practiced ease, he extinguished the remaining half of the cigarette and prepared to stand up.
As he lifted his head, he saw the little friend standing at the staircase.