The harsh winter in the coastal city grew more intense as the temperature dropped to near freezing at the end of December.
After the monthly exams, the teacher used the same method as last time and allowed students to choose their own seats based on their grades.
Gu Miao's English grades had improved rapidly, hovering just above passing, but his other subjects were already top-notch. With the improvement in his weakest subject, his overall score climbed steadily.
This time, he ranked fourth in the class, while Cheng Chu was fifth. They sat together again, silently acknowledging their unspoken agreement.
The winter wind blew into the classroom, bringing with it a bone-chilling cold.
Cheng Chu noticed that Song Xinyu had dropped more than ten places from last time, ranking twentieth in the class. Ever since she received a major demerit and publicly read her confession in front of the entire school, she became the laughingstock of everyone. No one dared to talk to her, not even her former best friend Lin Luo, who now avoided her.
During the seating arrangement, she silently sat alone in the corner of the classroom, and no one chose to sit with her.
She became much quieter, keeping her head down and shrinking into the corner. Even when she heard others making fun of her, she just stared straight ahead as if she didn't hear anything.
After the monthly exams, everyone relaxed and looked forward to the upcoming New Year holiday.
On the day before the holiday, the school cleared the last two classes in the afternoon and held a New Year's Eve party.
The final performance was a choir that needed Cheng Chu to accompany them. They sang the school song, which had no difficulty in melody or rhythm. The violin and piano duet performed by Zhou Qiqi and Ji Mingyue was one of the first acts, and it was almost the center of attention.
The auditorium was filled with noise and excitement, and the lights on the ceiling were bright even before the start of the evening party.
Cheng Chu sat next to Gu Miao, his young and stern demeanor exuding a straight and upright posture like a pine tree.
He felt Cheng Chu's gaze on him, causing his back to straighten even more.
"Chuchu, don't you have a performance? Why are you only wearing your school uniform?" Luo Qianqian turned around and asked her.
Cheng Chu smiled helplessly, "I'm just an accompanist, sitting in the corner playing the piano. The lights won't even shine on me, so it doesn't matter what I wear."
"Ah, even if it's just accompaniment, you still have to go up and perform. Unlike us who don't know how to do anything and can only sit in the audience," Luo Qianqian sighed with a hint of self-deprecation in her words, unable to resist comforting her friend.
She was petite and cute, sitting in front of Cheng Chu with her head tilted up and her eyes shining with moisture, looking extremely adorable.
Cheng Chu couldn't help but reach out and rub her head, saying, "Thank you."
"Hey, stop rubbing my head, you're going to mess up my hair," Luo Qianqian protected her hair and turned her head abruptly.
The lights on the stage flickered slightly, and Gu Miao clenched the armrest of his chair, retracting his envious gaze.
Cheng Chu turned his head and saw the young man next to him still sitting upright, his back straight as if he were a suspect about to be interrogated. The stage lights shone through the noisy crowd and into his dark eyes.
Cheng Chu smiled, "Isn't sitting so straight tiring?"
Gu Miao shook his head in a daze.
"But you'll block the view of the people behind you like this," Cheng Chu chuckled.
Their seats were very close to the front, and they could see everything on stage very clearly.
The boy was tall and sitting so straight would inevitably block the view of those behind him.
Cheng Chu leaned in slightly and whispered, "Relax a little."
In the noisy auditorium, the girl's deliberately lowered voice entered his ears clearly, like a soft feather brushing against his heart.
Gu Miao's ears turned red unconsciously, and his whole body felt like it had lost all strength, unable to move. The girl's slender and white fingers touched his shoulder, gently pushing his stone-like body against the back of the chair.
"Relax, it's okay. You're not performing, so why be nervous?" she said.
Feeling the softness of the chair against his back, Gu Miao looked up and found himself lost in the girl's clear and bright peach blossom eyes.
The sparkling lights on the stage all seemed to fall into those captivating eyes, causing Gu Miao's heart to skip a beat.
He rarely attended such parties, and even when he did, he would sit in a dim corner, unaware that his seating position might block the view of those behind him.
This was the first time he had been so close to the stage, close enough to see every beam of light and every set piece clearly.
But most importantly, he could see her. As Gu Miao's heart trembled slightly, he couldn't help but turn his head to look at the girl next to him. A hint of hidden joy could be seen in her dark and stern eyes.
But as he looked at the people behind them, the light in his eyes gradually became cold.
Above them, bright lights shone down. Lin Qifeng held two bunches of blooming lilies and threw one of them into Cheng Chu's arms.
"What's this for?" The elegant lilies made Cheng Chu even more stunning.
She looked up, her peach blossom eyes shining with a hint of confusion.
For a moment, Gu Miao's hand stiffened.
Meanwhile, Lin Qifeng stood by with his eyes slightly lowered. "Teacher Zhou asked us to wait and present the flowers later."
"To whom?" Cheng Chu asked.
"Um, it's those two people who played the piano and violin together. I don't remember their names, but when the performance is almost over, just wait for me by the stage and we'll go up together."
Someone called out his name from behind, and Lin Qifeng quickly finished his instructions, holding the bouquet of flowers in his arms.
He took a few steps and turned back to remind her, "Don't forget, their performance is the second one. Come over after the first one ends."
Cheng Chu waved his hand, "I got it, I got it. Hurry up and go."
Lin Qifeng was the president of the student union and was always busy during evening parties or competitions.
He was a prominent figure in the school, and wherever he went, he attracted attention.
After he left, Luo Qianqian turned her head and looked at the bouquet of lilies in full bloom, admiringly saying, "These flowers are so beautiful."
The pure white lilies were like winter moonlight, delicately wrapped in a few sheets of pale pink paper, with tiny droplets of dew still clinging to their petals.
"I think they're quite beautiful too," Cheng Chu looked down at the flowers in her arms, her long lashes trembling slightly.
The bright lights on the ceiling of the auditorium slowly dimmed, and a spotlight shone down on the stage as the two hosts walked on.
The evening party had begun.
Cheng Chu sat in the middle row, unsure of what to do with the flowers in her arms. The boy next to her reached out and took them from her.
"I'll help you, just put them aside," he said in a deep voice.
As he took the flowers, Cheng Chu breathed a sigh of relief and turned to thank Gu Miao beside her.
"Thank you," she said.
"It's nothing," the boy replied, his eyes downcast.
The stage curtains closed and then opened again. The first performance was an adapted version of the play Snow White. Laughter filled the room, and Cheng Chu couldn't stop laughing at the sight of the male actor dressed as Snow White.
It wasn't until the end of the performance that she snapped out of her daze.
"Give me the flowers, I need to go present them," Cheng Chu whispered to Gu Miao.
Gu Miao didn't say anything, but silently handed her the flowers.
His dark, calm eyes followed the girl as she held the bouquet, crouched through the crowd, and finally stopped by the stage.
Lin Qifeng stood beside her, and after saying a few words, made her cover her mouth and laugh happily. The two stood shoulder to shoulder, both with striking good looks that caught the attention of the crowd, like a perfect match.
Gu Miao quietly lowered his head, and the light in his dark eyes gradually faded away. The hall was heated, but Gu Miao's fingers gradually turned icy. He hung his head, lacking the courage to look up again.
The scene was like a knife, cutting his heart into pieces and leaving it bleeding and shattered.
The sweet duet flowed around them as Cheng Chu watched the two girls on stage. They were dressed in exquisite and dazzling dresses, bathed in the radiant light, and seemed to be coated with a soft glow as the music flowed.
“Wait for me to give flowers to the girl playing the piano, and I'll give flowers to the violin girl,” Lin Qifeng whispered in her ear.
As Cheng Chu nodded, the music gradually stopped, and the two people on stage stood side by side, bowing slightly.
"Hurry up, hurry up," Lin Qifeng urged. "Let's go."
Cheng Chu hurriedly followed. On stage, Zhou Qiqi blushed as she received the flowers from Cheng Chu and whispered, "Thank you."
She was wearing a moon-white dress that seemed to sparkle like stars under the bright stage lights.
Suddenly, Cheng Chu felt that her school uniform looked dull and she smiled, saying, "Your dress looks beautiful and you played so well."
Zhou Qiqi was struggling in her high heels as they walked off the stage, but Cheng Chu helped her down slowly.
The noisy venue erupted into chaos after their performance.
Several boys were asking for the names of the two girls who just performed.
When Cheng Chu returned to her seat after weaving through the crowd, he found that no one was there.
"Where's Gu Miao?" Cheng Chu asked Luo Qianqian.
"I don't know, I wasn't paying attention," Luo Qianqian scratched her head and said, "Maybe he got bored and left early."
"Oh," Cheng Chu's head drooped with disappointment.
The floor of the auditorium was covered in a plush carpet, and it felt like stepping on fluffy clouds.
But Cheng Chu's heart gradually sank.
Why did he leave without saying a word? Even though she was just an insignificant accompanist, couldn't he at least listen for a bit?
The host's voice was penetrating and entered Cheng Chu's ears.
She pursed her lips and comforted herself inwardly, "Maybe he just went to the bathroom? Or maybe he was called away by a teacher?"
But several programs passed, and he still hadn't returned.
As the evening party drew to a close, more than half of the people had already left, leaving only a few scattered individuals sitting in the once-packed auditorium.
Even Luo Qianqian and Zhou Ran had found excuses to leave early.
On the empty stage, the performers continued to passionately sing as if they were dancers spinning alone in an already dispersed ball, lonely and desolate.
"Teacher said it's almost time for the choir performance, go prepare and hurry up," someone lightly tapped her shoulder from behind.
Cheng Chu stood up, looked at the still-empty seats beside her, and nodded.
The cramped backstage was crowded with people, and without a piano, Cheng Chu could only stand to the side and listen to the choir sing.
The lengthy preparation time had drained the passion from the performers, and although their singing was still pleasant to the ear, it lacked the energy and vitality it once had.
The teacher frowned and scolded, "What's going on? Are you not going to perform without an audience?"
"Everyone, perk up! Can you hear me?" Her voice was loud and clear, like a morning bugle, awakening her sleepy students.
"We hear you!" they responded in unison.
Their dull eyes gradually lit up, and Cheng Chu watched, feeling her own dormant heart stirring slightly.
The host had finished announcing, and the choir students lined up and took turns going on stage. Cheng Chu followed at the back of the line.
The stage was set up with three tiers of steps, and they walked up one by one.
However, Cheng Chu walked past the steps and headed towards the piano in the corner of the stage.
It was behind the curtain, with only a few dim lights casting a faint glow in the corner. A few scattered applause sounded from the audience. Cheng Chu turned her head and looked at the empty seat where someone should have been sitting all along.
Everyone behind had already left.
The young man stood up straight, his burning gaze piercing through the vast and silent venue, landing on her.
He was there!
Cheng Chu's dim peach blossom eyes seemed to be adorned with dazzling stage lights, instantly brightening up.
The heart that had sunk to the bottom of the sea was pulled up to the surface in an instant, swaying along with the ebb and flow of the waves uncontrollably.
Her palms were sweating, and she took a deep breath before slowly sitting down.
The school anthem sung by the choir was extremely simple. Cheng Chu could play it even with her eyes closed, her fingers dancing freely on the keys as she looked down at the audience.
Through the heavy curtain, Cheng Chu collided with those deep and mysterious eyes.
Without any flashy decorations, without any dazzling stage lights, and even without any melodious singing, his dark eyes seemed to penetrate through mountains and rivers, but they were only fixed on that dim corner of the stage.
Cheng Chu's heart seemed to bloom a pale yellow flower, the only bright color in this quiet winter night.
She suddenly realized that even without gorgeous dresses, dazzling lights, or stunning music, even if she sat in the dark corner without any brilliance, she was still shining brightly in the eyes of that young man, like a star in the midnight sky.
As the music gradually stopped, Cheng Chu slowly stood up and gave a brilliant smile to the young man in the audience.
Even without applause, this performance was still very successful.
The teacher said a few symbolic words and then let everyone go. When she emerged from backstage, the party had already ended.
The hall was empty, and Cheng Chu's phone vibrated twice.
It was a text message from Gu Miao: 'I'm waiting for you at the back door of the auditorium.'
Cheng Chu smiled and slung her backpack over her shoulder as she walked through the lobby.
Pushing open the back door, the cold, desolate wind blew in like a knife, causing Cheng Chu's hand on the door handle to stiffen. She adjusted the down jacket draped over her school uniform and looked up to see the young man not far away.
In the dark winter night, the dim yellow light was like melting toffee, softly dissolving. The young man stood under the lush holly tree, tall and straight, exuding a faint chill.
"Gu Miao—" Cheng Chu waved and ran towards him with a smile.
The streetlamp stretched the girl's figure into a long shadow, and she lifted her eyes, her bright peach blossom eyes looking at him.
"Where did you just go? I thought you had left," she scolded him with a glance, but there was no anger in her eyes.
Gu Miao's heart tightened, his throat rolled, "I, I..."
He became nervous and stuttered.
Cheng Chu smiled and looked at his hands that were always behind his back, curiously asking, "What are you holding in your hands?"
A faint blush appeared on the young man's pale face. He looked down at the girl's clear eyes, his hands behind his back loosening and tightening.
On this quiet winter night, he heard a heartbeat louder than any other sound. It was as if his body had been set on fire, and his blood was boiling.
"What's so secretive? What is it?" Cheng Chu asked again when he saw that he wasn't moving.
The pale yellow light reflected in the young man's dark eyes. He pursed his lips and his stiff fingers moved slightly. After a moment, with his face turning red, he finally stretched out his hands from behind his back, facing the girl's bright peach blossom eyes.
The night wind was howling, and a few holly leaves were slowly falling.
The boy's hands were holding a small bouquet of baby's breath, as if the sparkling stars were all embedded in his arms.
"For, for you." The boy lowered his head, his hands trembling slightly as he handed the baby's breath to her.
The small bouquet of baby's breath swayed slightly with the shaking hands, as if the stars were blinking happily.
Cheng Chu felt something melting in her heart, spreading warmth throughout her cold body.
She was a little stunned as she took the bouquet of baby's breath and lifted her face to ask, "Did you go out halfway to buy flowers?"
The boy pursed his dry lips and nodded.
If others have it, she should have it too. But he didn't have that much money, couldn't afford an expensive bouquet, and could only afford a small handful of baby's breath.
Would she be disappointed? Gu Miao nervously lifted his gaze and met the girl's eyes, filled with a smile.
They were as clear as summer water, causing his heart to tremble.
"Thank you." Cheng Chu looked up at the boy's eyes and said, "I really like it."
Gu Miao's ears turned red unconsciously, and even his cheeks turned red. His dark eyes were shyly trembling, like a shy little puppy.
"Liking it, is good." He lowered his voice and spoke incoherently due to nervousness. "You, play very well."
Better than anyone else. Cheng Chu let out a chuckle, her bright peach blossom eyes curved into a crescent moon as she looked at the shy young man in front of her.
Her voice was filled with joyful laughter as she said, "I played the school song accompaniment, what's so good about it?"
"It's, good," the young man's eyelashes trembled, but his voice was resolute.
Cheng Chu lowered her head and lovingly touched the baby's breath in her arms.
Suddenly, she looked up and asked, "Have you not heard me play any other songs? Do you want to listen?"
The winter night in the city was cold, and Gu Miao's heart shrank for a moment, not knowing if it was from the cold or from nervousness.
Gu Miao: I've actually secretly listened to her play other songs before~
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.