After school that day, the teacher kept Song Xinyu, Zhou Ran, Cheng Chu, and Gu Miao behind.
Many teachers from other classes who hadn't left yet were curious and peeked in.
Song Xinyu was already crying so hard that she couldn't catch her breath, trying to evoke sympathy from the teacher.
But Lin Yue clearly wasn't buying it. She found someone to bring Wang Yan to the office.
Other teachers were horrified after hearing the calm confession from this young boy.
How could someone so young be so cruel?
The grade leader watched coldly from the side and finally made a decision -
Song Xinyu received a major demerit, and on Monday, she had to read a self-criticism in front of the whole school.
Wang Yan and Gu Miao received a warning. A warning and reprimand wasn't a serious punishment. As long as they behaved well within a year, it could be removed from their record.
But a major demerit would be a lifelong stain.
Song Xinyu broke down in tears, snot mixed with tears gushing out, almost kneeling down to Cheng Chu.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it. Please, I don't want a major demerit," she cried out, almost begging in a humble tone. "Please forgive me this time, I won't do it again."
Cheng Chu lowered her eyes slightly, looking at her coldly without saying a word.
People always have to pay a little price for the mistakes they make.
This was what she deserved.
Song Xinyu cried so much in the office that she almost collapsed.
In the end, her parents came to the school to take her home.
As Cheng Chu and Gu Miao left the office, the sky was already dark, with the evening sun casting a slanted, crimson glow.
Walking along the campus path, the sunset stretched their shadows, making them look like lovers cuddling together from afar. The gentle evening breeze brushed past the holly trees by the roadside, and the campus was silent.
After a while, Gu Miao spoke up, "You know everything now."
A few green leaves fell at their feet, and Cheng Chu pursed her lips and replied, "Mm."
Gu Miao lowered his head, and his black eyelashes trembled slightly. It felt like a piece of his heart had collapsed, leaving him empty and powerless, with a sense of overwhelming darkness that he had been desperately trying to hide all along, but she had already known.
In the evening sunset, the young man's dark eyes were as deep and boundless as the night sky. He suddenly felt useless, realizing that she had already seen through all the darkness he had been trying so hard to conceal.
She was fearless, even braver than him, and knew better how to face things.
Gu Miao weakly closed his eyes.
She didn't need him at all. Maybe in her eyes, he was just a joke. A joke that overestimated himself.
At the end of the path was a bike shed. Gu Miao didn't look at her and walked straight in.
Cheng Chu quickly followed.
There were no lights in the shed, and the slender figure of the teenager blended into the darkness.
The girl's voice was clear and gentle, like a sparkling light in the dark night, piercing through the cold loneliness of the city and into Gu Miao's ears.
Gu Miao paused as he pushed the bike. "What's wrong?"
"Can you take me home?" Cheng Chu pursed her lips. "I'm scared."
The darkness seemed to magnify the senses, and Cheng Chu could hear her own heart beating louder and louder.
"If it weren't for you, Wang Yan would have definitely sent someone after me that day," said Cheng Chu as she walked a few steps closer and looked up. "Thank you, Gu Miao. Thank you for protecting me."
A few rays of evening sun shone through the cracks in the shed roof, and the girl's eyes sparkled like stars that had fallen into the whole world.
Gu Miao's throat rolled, and his heart beat wildly without restraint. He could hardly control the surging emotions inside him.
She always had this effect on him, just a few words and he would lose his composure and his heart would skip a beat.
The girl tilted her head slightly, her eyes hot and bright, staring at him without blinking, as if saying to him - I need you, I really need you.
Gu Miao felt the surging emotions in his heart rise to his throat, but he found himself unable to say a word.
He silently pursed his lips, but couldn't utter a single sound. The surrounding time seemed to stretch endlessly, every minute and every second flowing slowly like a decelerated melody.
It felt like an eternity had passed until the cold winter wind finally pierced through the parking shed, and Gu Miao heard his own voice amidst his racing heartbeat.
He steadied his wildly beating heart and finally found his voice.
"If, if you're afraid, I can take you home," he said hoarsely, his words broken and fragmented.
The darkness concealed his burning ears, but it couldn't hide the almost humble and cautious tone in his voice.
Cheng Chu's lips curved into a gentle smile as she replied, "Sure, thank you."
As they walked out of the garage, a round moon quietly rose in the sky, casting its pure and bright light over the peaceful campus.
The two of them walked out of the campus, one in front and one behind.
The holly trees on the roadside swayed in the night breeze. With one foot on the bike, Gu Miao pursed his lips and said, "Let's go."
Cheng Chu quietly walked to the back seat and gently pulled on his clothes.
Gu Miao's hand stiffened.
"Let's go," he said softly.
A simple bicycle rode into the moonlight of the city.
Cheng Chu's home was very close, but Gu Miao slowed down, taking several minutes longer than the last time he brought her.
When they arrived at the entrance of the residential area, Cheng Chu got off the bike and said softly to the young man, "I'll go first."
Gu Miao lowered his eyes and nodded.
The entrance of the residential area was brightly lit, and Cheng Chu took a few steps before being called back.
"Cheng Chu," the boy's voice floated lightly in the night wind of the seaside city.
Cheng Chu turned around.
Under the moonlight, the boy sat on his bicycle, looking up at her.
His deep, dark eyes were like gentle and bright moonlight.
His knobby hands gripped the handlebars, and veins bulged on the back of his hand.
"What's wrong?" Cheng Chu asked.
The boy's eyelashes trembled slightly, and he stuttered, "If you're still scared tomorrow, I, I can still take you."
If you're still scared in the future, I'm willing to keep taking you.
Several cars whizzed by on the side of the road, and taking advantage of the flickering taillights, Gu Miao finally gathered the courage to look up.
He looked at the tall and graceful girl not far away. She was wearing a loose winter school uniform, her fair little face pure and beautiful under the moonlight, and a smile gradually appeared in her sparkling peach blossom eyes.
"Okay, I'm afraid tomorrow too," she said with joy in her voice, the end of her sentence slightly rising, "and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that."
"Can you walk me home?" She walked up to Gu Miao, her pretty peach blossom eyes curving into two crescent moons.
The light fragrance emanating from her body floated in the air, causing Gu Miao's fingertips to tremble involuntarily.
"Y-yes, I can," he stuttered, despite the simplicity of her request.
"Then, see you tomorrow?" Cheng Chu smiled and said softly, "Goodnight."
"Good, goodnight," Gu Miao said hoarsely, watching the girl's figure gradually disappear into the distance.
That night, Gu Miao cleaned his bicycle inside and out, even finding a soft cushion to put on the back seat. He called the owner of the noodle shop, begging to have his evening shift changed to noon and weekends.
As the night fell silent, Gu Miao hung up the phone and began silently anticipating the arrival of tomorrow.
The last class on Wednesday was an elective course, during which Cheng Chu had her piano practice time.
Recently, she had been kept in the classroom after class, so she instructed Gu Miao not to wait for her after school. As expected, when it was time for school to end, the music teacher knocked on the door of the piano room and asked her to go to the music classroom.
When she arrived, there were only a few people in the small classroom.
Cheng Chu saw Ji Mingyue among them and asked, "What's going on here?"
Surrounded by several music prodigies who all knew each other, they greeted Cheng Chu as she arrived.
"It seems like there's a New Year's Eve party next week and they need performers," one of them said.
Before Cheng Chu could respond, the music teacher burst in with great energy.
She looked around and said, "Everyone's here, so let me tell you. The school is hosting a party next week and we need two performances: a choir and a piano and violin duet."
"For the choir, I'll send you the sheet music and you can practice at home. And for the piano and violin duet, Ji Mingyue, you need to practice more."
The teacher rattled off instructions and handed out sheet music before urging everyone to leave, leaving only Cheng Chu and Zhou Qiqi behind.
In the corner of the music classroom stood a piano, with a few chairs scattered haphazardly around it. The pale blue curtains fluttered in the cold winter wind, adding to the disarray and desolation of the room.
There were two special piano students in this year's school intake, Zhou Qiqi and Cheng Chu, while Ji Mingyue was the only special violin student.
It was obvious why the teacher had asked them to stay behind.
Zhou Qiqi nervously tugged at her clothes and glanced at Cheng Chu.
The winter day was turning dark quickly, and the streetlights outside had already been lit. A few warm yellow beams of light shone into the room, casting a small patch of light and shadow on the young girl. She seemed to be enveloped in a beautiful halo of light.
Zhou Qiqi couldn't help but feel inferior to her. She lowered her head in disappointment.
The classroom was silent, and the music teacher cleared her throat and said, "For the piano section this time, I want Zhou Qiqi to go."
Zhou Qiqi looked up suddenly, disbelief written all over her face as she gazed at her teacher.
"If you feel that there's anything unfair, Cheng Chu, you can choose to compete with Qiqi tomorrow and let Ji Mingyue and the others vote," the teacher said.
"No need, teacher," Cheng Chu replied calmly. "I think Qiqi is perfect for the role."
"Alright then, that's settled. Our choir is also in need of a piano accompanist, so you can join us for that," the teacher said.
Cheng Chu nodded in agreement.
As the two of them walked out of the music building, the sky had already turned pitch black. The warm yellow lights on the roadside cast a gentle glow, as if a thin veil had been draped over the cold pavement.
"My backpack is still in the classroom, I need to go get it. I'll see you later," Cheng Chu waved goodbye to Zhou Qiqi.
"Wait, Cheng Chu," Zhou Qiqi called out to her. "About the performance, we should compete tomorrow, it'll be more fair."
"No need," Cheng Chu replied with a smile. "I haven't been in good form lately. I embarrass myself every time I go on stage. Playing accompaniment is more suitable for me."
Under the warm light, the petite girl lowered her head, revealing only the top of her hair. Her thin shoulders drooped slightly, like a lost kitten.
Cheng Chu walked a few steps closer and patted her shoulder. "Be confident, you play beautifully, no worse than me."
Despite the cold winter wind, Zhou Qiqi felt a warmth rising from within.
She looked up at the stunning girl in front of her and said, "Thank you, Cheng Chu."
She had never been very confident. She wasn't as pretty as Cheng Chu, nor could she play the piano as well as her. She wasn't as popular either.
In all the piano performances and competitions she had participated in, whenever Cheng Chu was present, she could only bloom like a dull leaf in a corner, without any radiance. She had once felt envious, but one afternoon, after exhausting practice, she passed by the piano room.
The summer heat made the room stuffy, and through the window, she saw the dazzling girl with delicate hair, who usually shone like a star, bowing her head. Cheng Chu's forehead was covered in sweat, and her hair stuck to her cheeks in strands.
In the hot and cramped piano room, she was like a wind-up puppet, tirelessly repeating her practice with her head down. It was at that moment that she realized the sweat and hard work that went into achieving the dazzling brilliance she had once envied.
Some girls are worthy of having all the beauty in the world.
On this winter night, the holly trees planted outside the music building rustled in the wind.
After saying goodbye to Zhou Qiqi, Cheng Chu walked alone into the pitch-black teaching building.
The surroundings were silent, and her footsteps echoed lightly on the tiled floor. Cheng Chu felt her way up the stairs in the dark.
On the second floor, a soft light shone through the dark hallway and caught Cheng Chu's eye.
The hallway was silent, and Cheng Chu slowed her pace as she approached the classroom.
The cold winter wind howled and blew into the classroom, chilling to the bone.
Cheng Chu saw a young boy sitting in the corner of the classroom, reading with his head down.
"Gu Miao," she called out softly.
Suddenly, a clear voice rang out, and Gu Miao looked up in surprise to see her, quickly standing up.
He was flustered and accidentally knocked over his chair.
With a loud bang, it sounded like thunder in the silent night. Cheng Chu was startled and quickly walked over to help him up from the chair.
"Why haven't you gone back yet? Didn't I tell you not to wait if it's too late?" she asked.
The young man took the chair and lowered his head, his eyelashes trembling.
"The night is too dark, and the road you take home is too dim," he said, afraid that she would be scared.
The winter night in the city was shrouded in cold fog, and the window was hazy.
Cheng Chu felt like her heart had fallen into a misty fog, lost and confused, not knowing what to do.
She couldn't help but secretly raise her eyes and look at Gu Miao's handsome face.
Under the light, his black eyes were like scattered fireworks, with fine light.
The fireworks in his eyes seemed to have a temperature, making Cheng Chu's ears unknowingly turn red.
"Let's go already," she turned around and discreetly pulled her backpack from the seat, no longer looking at him.
The bicycle leisurely rode on the path, holly leaves scattered on the ground, and the wheels made a crisp sound as they rolled over them.
Cheng Chu tugged on his clothes and smelled the clean scent of soap on him.
She couldn't help but move closer.
With only a millimeter of distance between them, she felt the warmth of his broad back.
The night breeze blew gently, and the pleasant smell of soap seemed to be even closer.
Cheng Chu pursed her lips, and her hand holding onto his clothes tightened quietly. She couldn't help but lean forward again.
The bike suddenly stopped, and Gu Miao's voice became extremely low.
Cheng Chu suddenly stopped, and she quickly let go of his clothes and jumped off the bike.
As her heart, which had been beating erratically, gradually calmed down, Cheng Chu reached for her backpack strap and looked up at Gu Miao.
"Well, I should be going now. Thank you for walking me back," she said.
Gu Miao kept his eyes down and silently nodded.
There was a moment of awkward silence, and just as Cheng Chu was about to turn around, she heard a strange rumbling sound.
She turned back and saw a tall teenager sitting on a bike in front of her, his head down and his ears bright red.
"Are you hungry?" Cheng Chu asked softly.
She guessed that the boy probably hadn't eaten anything, just to wait for her until now.
"No, no," Gu Miao quickly denied.
He now regretted not leaving earlier, so she wouldn't hear his embarrassing and funny stomach growling.
But Cheng Chu knew he was just trying to be strong.
"How long will it take you to get home?" Cheng Chu couldn't help but ask.
After a few seconds of contemplation, Gu Miao spoke the truth, "One hour."
An hour? He would be starving by the time he got home.
Cheng Chu's chest ached slightly. After hesitating for a moment, she spoke up, "Do you want to come in for a meal first?"
In the howling cold wind, Gu Miao's hands stiffened and he almost fell off the car seat.
The author has something to say:
Gu Miao: Should I go or not?
Translations during sleepless nights. I can sleep when I'm dead! ...Please let me sleep. Happy readers keep me awake, and lots of love and a huge thank you for supporting my hobby!
Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@ypeels.