Published at 16th of April 2016 10:45:02 PM

Chapter 16

In Chapter 16 of The Youthful You Who Was So Beautiful, we return to a strange sense of normalcy, one that isn’t expected after the recent upheavals, but isnevertheless gladly  welcome, for it gives us a short reprieve before we truly head into the storm . After the incident, Bei Ye and Chen Nian become more essential to each other than ever, and it is at this point where Chen Nian really seems to begin placing her utmost faith, love and trust in Bei Ye – so much so that I wonder whether she still recalls her initial plan to ditch him and leave for Beijing after graduation exams .

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars . How do we translate this quote by Oscar Wilde?” The English teacher stood behind the podium, his sharp, bespectacled eyes sweeping across the classroom . “Can someone volunteer to translate this sentence? What about Chen Nian?”

Chen Nian was about to rise from her seat when the English teacher waved his hand at her, “You may remain seated . ”

Chen Nian replied softly, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars . ”

“That’s absolutely correct . We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars . ” The English teacher repeated the translation once more, and pushed his spectacles up before continuing, “Next question . ”

It was the fourth day after the stabbing incident . Everything was as per normal .

Wei Cai never sought Chen Nian out for revenge .

As the rainy season neared its end, the weather gradually grew hotter and hotter . Bei Ye purchased a small electric fan for Chen Nian . Chen Nian hung it underneath her desk, the electric fan whirring silently as it provided her with much-needed comfort .

The English teacher was still going through the questions on the worksheet when a familiar figure appeared at the entrance of the classroom . On seeing the form teacher’s skinny figure, Chen Nian’s heart skipped a beat – only to hear him announce, “Zeng Hao, could you excuse yourself for a minute?”

Zeng Hao left the classroom .

Chen Nian redirected her attention to the English teacher . Not long after, Zeng Hao returned to the classroom, hints of delight barely concealed beneath her mask of normalcy .

After class, Xiao Mi poked Zeng Hao’s back, “Zeng Hao . ”

“Yes?” Zeng Hao turned back to look at Xiao Mi .

“Why did the form teacher look for you? Did something good happen to you?”

Chen Nian opened a packet of Pocky biscuits .

“May I have some?” Zeng Hao reached over and grabbed a single Pocky stick .  Xiao Mi reached for a Pocky stick as well, commenting as she munched on the Pocky stick, “Nian, you seem to have plenty of snacks recently . ”

Several classmates began to gather round Chen Nian’s table, each grabbing a Pocky stick from her . Before long, the packet of Pocky was depleted .

“Wei Cai’s missing . ” Zeng Hao shrugged her shoulders as she nibbled on her biscuit, unable to hide her gleeful expression from her face .

Surprised, Xiao Mi continued asking, “Why would the form teacher look for you if Wei Cai is missing?”

Zeng Hao rolled her eyes, “They’re just going through the motions and asking me about her whereabouts as a symbolic step – after all, everybody knew that I was a victim of the bullying Wei Cai and her friends inflicted on me . At that time, they all persuaded me not to overcomplicate matters, and to simply think of it as a prank between classmates . Now, seeing that I’m the first one to be questioned by them, they must have reversed their viewpoint on the incident . ” Zeng Hao let out a cold, short laugh before continuing, “I’m not the only one who had been targeted by Wei Cai – students from neighbouring schools have been targets of her bullying as well! Am I the only one who hates her? In any event, I can’t be bothered about what happened to her – she deserves to be missing . ”

Chen Nian raised her head, and warned Zeng Hao, “Don’t be so sure about that . What if, she had simply gone away for a short recreational trip? She might return, after a few days . ”

Zeng Hao pouted, “I hope she never returns . Ever . ”

Xiao Mi chimed in, “Ah, our form teacher is going to have a head full of white hair soon . ”

“Why should he grow any white hair?” Zeng Hao retorted, “Wei Cai has already been expelled from school; the responsibility of monitoring her now lies with her parents, so the school has nothing to do with Wei Cai . Previously, the school administrators didn’t want to admit that their students were involved in such a huge scandal, so they tried various ways and means to resolve the incident amicably . Now, they’re probably thanking the heavens that Wei Cai is no longer connected to them – otherwise, the reputation of the school would go down the drain . ”

Chen Nian spotted Xu Miao standing behind Zeng Hao, and nudged Zeng Hao indiscreetly; Zeng Hao turned around, an awkward expression flashing across her face upon seeing Xu Miao . Turning back to Chen Nian, Zeng Hao stuck her tongue out in an attempt to diffuse the situation . The topic came to a halt .

Evening time .

Chen Nian headed to the entrance of the school, and saw Bei Ye waiting in his usual spot, on the street opposite the school compound . But…… Bei Ye wasn’t looking at her; instead, Bei Ye was staring at Xu Miao, a strange, cold smile forming on his lips . It was only when Xu Miao hopped into her parents car did Bei Ye turn to look at Chen Nian .

Puzzled, Chen Nian mulled over Bei Ye’s odd behaviour before coming to the conclusion that she must have seen wrongly .

On spotting Chen Nian, Bei Ye began to walk towards Chen Nian .

Chen Nian continued to walk by herself .

After the previous incident, Chen Nian often felt ill at ease, and had to frequently turn back to look at Bei Ye in order to feel a sense of security .

Just as she turned her head to look at Bei Ye, she heard Li Xiang’s voice ring out, “Chen Nian!”

Chen Nian’s gaze flew towards Bei Ye, only to see Bei Ye staring at her .  Stuffing his hand in his pockets, he took a small, deliberate step to the side – only to ram into Li Xiang’s shoulder when Li Xiang ran past him . Bei Ye reeled slightly from the impact .

“Oh, sorry!” Li Xiang turned back, apologising brightly to Bei Ye before continuing to run towards Chen Nian .

Chen Nian quietly glanced at Li Xiang before turning back and continuing to walk ahead .

Sensing the strained atmosphere, Li Xiang hurriedly explained himself, “I’m heading to my aunt’s place for dinner again . ”

“Oh . ”

“Chen Nian, I heard that Wei Cai’s missing . ”

“Is that so?”

“Maybe she fought with her parents and ran away from home . ” Li Xiang mulled over it before continuing, “I suppose it’s good that she left . That way, she can no longer affect you . ”

Upon hearing this, Chen Nian’s sensitive nature caused her to raise her head, and she cut him off, “I have no, connection with Wei Cai . The way you said it, made it sound like, I would be extremely happy, if she disappeared . She didn’t, affect me . It’s probably more accurate, to say that she affected Zeng Hao . ”

Li Xiang was momentarily stunned . After coming back to his senses, he began to apologise, “That’s true . ”

His apology hung awkwardly between the two of them as they continued walking side by side . Just then, Li Xiang unintentionally cast a backwards glance .  His smile faltering slightly, he lowered his head and warned Chen Nian under his breath, “Chen Nian, I’ve seen this person before . He had previously followed you before . ”


“Don’t turn back!”

But Chen Nian had already turned back . The very next moment, Li Xiang grabbed Chen Nian’s hand and dragged her forward into a run, “Run! We have to ditch him!”

Chen Nian stared at Bei Ye in surprise – but before she could react, she had already been dragged off by Li Xiang .

Chen Nian struggled against Li Xiang’s grip the entire way, but Li Xiang was simply too strong . Grabbing Chen Nian by the hand, he dragged her across entire streets before turning back to check that “the mysterious stranger” was no longer following them . After ascertaining that they were no longer being followed, Li Xiang gradually came to a stop .

Chen Nian wrested her hand out of Li Xiang’s grip . Bending her body, Chen Nian tried to catch her breath .

“Why did you start running!” Chen Nian was extremely unhappy .

Chen Nian rarely showcased any emotion, so it was extremely rare for her to reveal her negative emotions; Li Xiang rationalised Chen Nian’s odd behaviour away by assuming that she was in a bad mood today . Lowering his voice, he tried to explain to her as patiently as he could, “I was afraid that someone was tailing you . ”

“Who?” Breathing heavily, Chen Nian stared at him, “Who!”

“… He didn’t follow us after all . ”

“There’s so many people, in school . ” Chen Nian was drenched in sweat, and her face was flushed, “Of course there would be people walking in the same direction!”

“That’s true . But, it’s better to be safe than sorry . I’m sorry . ” Li Xiang smiled at her apologetically .

Chen Nian turned away, averting her gaze, “It’s alright . ”

Chen Nian bid Li Xiang goodbye at the intersection and began to wait for Bei Ye . Her inexplicable feelings of unhappiness and anger with Li Xiang only began to subside when she spotted Bei Ye in the distance .

However, Bei Ye didn’t stop as he strolled past her . Instead, he merely cast a quick glance at her as he walked past her . Without a moment’s hesitation, Chen Nian fell into step next to Bei Ye, the two youths separated by a distance of roughly two to three persons .

Ever since that day, Bei Ye no longer used his motorcycle to fetch her to and fro from school . Chen Nian no longer returned to her own home; neither did she stay in school in the afternoon to revise her work . Nowadays, she simply returned to Bei Ye’s home during the afternoon break – as long as she was not in school, Bei Ye’s presence was essential for her to feel a sense of security .

When the two youths arrived at the abandoned fields surrounding Bei Ye’s home, Chen Nian closed the gap between her and Bei Ye, and stared at him with her innocent and wide eyes . She was waiting for Bei Ye to speak up, to ask her how was her day in school .

But Bei Ye remained silent . He didn’t even spare her a single glance .

After some time, Chen Nian spoke up, “Are you unhappy?”

“No, I’m not . ” Casually plucking out some green foxtails by his feet, Bei Ye returned the question, “What about you?”


“Are you unhappy?”

“I’m not unhappy either . ” Chen Nian shook her head in response .

The fiery golden orb hung on the horizon beyond the abandoned field .

Unable to repress her curiosity, Chen Nian inquired, “Why did you, knock into him, just now?”


“– Li Xiang . ”

Bei Ye snorted, “What an odd name . ”

“Why did you knock into him?” Chen Nian persisted, demanding an answer from Bei Ye, “I saw you, you did it on purpose . ”

“I don’t like him, so I knocked into him . ” Bei Ye turned his body slightly towards Chen Nian . Leaning down and brushing the green foxtail against the tip of her nose lightly,  he teased, “Do you intend to seek revenge for him?”

“……” Chen Nian’s face reddened in embarrassment . After a momentary silence, she continued asking, “Why do you, dislike him?”

Bei Ye let out a short laugh before glancing at Chen Nian coolly, “Don’t you already know why?”

Lowering her head, Chen Nian tried to rub the sweat off her palms, “But I don’t, like him . Not, in that way . ”

“If that’s the case, who do you like?” Bei Ye asked .

Chen Nian felt her face burn up .

The long stalks of grass swayed lightly in the wind .

Chen Nian didn’t answer; but at the very next moment, Bei Ye felt a small and soft hand worm its way into his palm, as though it was a small, tiny fish that managed to worm into the mud – although the mud had long been prepared for such ‘attacks’, it was still caught unawares by the little fish, which succeeded in creating a small hole in the mud and filling it with water, thus providing the dry and cracked mud with some much-needed moisture .

The youth held Chen Nian’s hand tenderly as he led her across the vast and wild field, both of them gradually making their way towards the setting sun .

Strolling into the grounds of the abandoned steel mill, stalks of flowers capable of being made into earcuffs caught Bei Ye’s attention . Bei Ye plucked two flowers and carefully hung them on Chen Nian’s ears . Pinching Chen Nian’s earlobes, he made a sudden observation, “You don’t have any earholes . ”

“I was planning to, pierce my ears, after exams ended . ”

“Okay . ”

“Will you go with me?”

“Of course . ” Bei Ye leaned towards Chen Nian, his lips lightly brushing past her cheeks, as though he was a kid tasting his favourite cotton candy .

Bei Ye continued, “When you finally pierce your ears, I’ll give you a pair of earrings as a present . ”

“……Thank you . ”

“I haven’t given you the earrings yet . ”

“I can thank you in advance, it doesn’t mater . ”

The two youths walked towards their home, their fingers tightly interlaced together .

Bei Ye’s mobile phone rang . Frowning, he picked up the call, his tone cold as ice, “I already told you – don’t look for me during afternoon and night . ” Chen Nian knew that Bei Ye’s friends were on the other end of the line . Nowadays, Bei Ye was only able to spend time with his friends when Chen Nian was in school; and after the incident, Bei Ye only became more protective of her than ever .

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Bei Ye hung up on his friends .

Chen Nian suggested, “Tonight, let’s try to cook something for dinner . ”

Bei Ye smiled indulgently, “Sure . ”

Stepping into the grounds of the abandoned steel mill, Chen Nian discovered two thick, long ropes hanging from the mulberry tree . Chen Nian gazed at the ropes, and turned to look at Bei Ye with a questioning look in her eyes . Bei Ye answered, “I’m building a swing for you; you can sit on the swing every single day after examinations end . I’ve also sprayed huge amounts of insecticide on the tree, so you won’t be bothered by annoying bugs when you’re sitting on the swing . ”

Chen Nian gave a small, gentle nod .

Upon reaching Bei Ye’s home, the two youths discovered that they had no more rice or instant noodles . Instead, they were only left with a handful of spaghetti noodles . Chen Nian set some water to boil, and threw the noodles into the pot . Turning to Bei Ye, she asked, “Is this enough for the both of us?”

“It doesn’t seem to be enough . Let’s add two eggs . ” Bei Ye cracked two eggs into the pot .

Chen Nian began raiding Bei Ye’s fridge, “Oh, there’s some Chinese cabbages and some mushrooms left! Ah, there’s some tomatoes as well!” Removing these vegetables from the fridge, Chen Nian threw them all into the pot of boiling water .

Finally, Chen Nian and Bei Ye managed to produce a pot full of vegetables and noodles . The two youths didn’t even bother placing the soupy noodles into a huge bowl, and simply placed the pot on the table . Grabbing two pairs of chopsticks, the two youths sat themselves on the chairs and began eating directly from the pot .

It was surprisingly delicious .

In the heat of the summer, the two youths ate hot, tasty noodles for dinner as beads of sweat began forming on their forehead . The electric fan whirred in the background, providing much needed comfort .

“Do you like it?” Bei Ye asked .

Chen Nian nodded her head happily .

Bei Ye pushed the bottle of beer towards her, “Try some . ”

Chen Nian grabbed the bottle carefully, and took a small sip . As she slowly gulped down the bitter liquid, her eyebrows began to knit together tightly . Bei Ye stared at her, his eyes twinkling with amusement .

“Is it tasty?”

Chen Nian pressed her lips together, and replied, “No, it isn’t . ” As she gazed at Bei Ye, her lips began to curve into a smile .

“Why are you smiling?” Curious, Bei Ye asked .

Chen Nian shook her head gently, “There isn’t any particular reason . ”

“Are you happy?”

Staring blankly into space, Chen Nian mulled over the question before slowly nodding her head . In a low voice, Chen Nian replied softly, “Happy . ”

Bei Ye responded with a single ‘Oh’ before lowering his gaze and staring at the noodles in the pot, his lips unknowingly curving into a small, blissful smile .

Chen Nian returned the question to him, “Are you happy?”

“I’m happy too . ”

Having gobbled up the noodles in its entirety, Bei Ye asked, “Are you full?”

Chen Nian nodded, “I’m full . ”

As if on cue, the heavenly scent of freshly baked bread began to waft from the alley, finding its way into the noses of the two youths . Bei Ye stood up, “Do you want some?”

“……Yes . ”

Laughing aloud, Bei Ye hopped out of his window . Before long, he returned to the house with freshly baked bread and an extra lollipop in tow . Removing the lollipop from its packaging, Chen Nian hurriedly placed it in her mouth . As she turned from the table, she spotted the Bible on the drawer . Paling slightly, she walked over to the drawer and hastily hid the Bible from view .

Turning back to Bei Ye, she commented as casually as she could, “Wei Cai’s missing . ”

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“Oh . ” Bei Ye replied, his facial expression betraying no hint of any emotion . Sticking the straw into the small box of milk, he pushed the milk to Chen Nian .

“Where would she have gone to?”

“Who knows? There are so many people out there who are unhappy with her . Her whereabouts is none of our business . ”

“Oh . ”

But if the Police began to investigate Wei Cai’s disappearance, it would nevertheless cause a huge disturbance . Frowning, Chen Nian stood up all of a sudden, and made her way to the bathroom . On entering the bathroom, she began rifling through the drawers and the clothing pile; Bei Ye didn’t make any attempt to stop Chen Nian, and simply sat at the table whilst drinking his milk .

Wrenching open the bottom drawer beneath the sink, Chen Nian discovered that it was entirely void of any objects; having searched the bathroom as thoroughly as she could, she inquired, “Where’s the clothes?”


“That day, the clothes that I wore . ”

“I burnt them . ”

“You burnt them?” Slightly surprised at Bei Ye’s cautious nature, Chen Nian pressed on, “But wouldn’t you have, been discovered, when you were burning the clothes?”

“I know of a place where rubbish gets incinerated every single day . ”

On seeing Chen Nian open her mouth once more, Bei Ye interrupted her train of thought, “Don’t you have to revise your schoolwork today?”

“I do . ” As Chen Nian returned to the table, Bei Ye hooked up the table lamp for her .

The two youths sat on opposite ends of the table; as Chen Nian tackled question after question, Bei Ye flipped through his comic books, only raising his head occasionally to glance at her . Once in a while, Bei Ye would head over to the window to chase the noisy crickets away . With that, the two youths passed their long summer nights quietly, peaceful and content .

Day after day, the two youths relied and depended on each other .

One summer night, Chen Nian closed her books as the familiar screech of the train began to ring .  The torrential rain hadn’t poured down that night, and the house was filled with a peaceful silence .

Chen Nian commented, “It didn’t rain, tonight . ”

Bei Ye strolled over to the window, and peered out, “The rainy season is about to end……” Pausing, he gazed at the night sky, “Little Stutterer,”

“Hmm?” Chen Nian turned to look at him .

“Come and take a look . ” Bei Ye urged .

Chen Nian walked to the window . Sticking her head out of the window, she began to gaze at the canopy of luminous stars in the inky night sky . Bei Ye hopped onto the windowsill, and stretched his hand out to Chen Nian . Gladly placing her small hand in his outstretched palm, Chen Nian clambered up the window sill and hopped onto the small cement ledge outside the window . With Bei Ye’s help, she managed to reach the emergency stairwell easily and began making her way to the rooftop .

The two youths sat side by side on the rooftop, their shoulders gently touching each other’s as they admired the starry night sky, their gazes devout and sincere .  The canopy of stars was so breathtaking, so beautiful, that the two youths were overcome with an irresistible urge to cry .

All of a sudden, Chen Nian was reminded of the sentence which she had previously studied in English class . “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars . ”

Bei Ye lowered his eyes and turned to look at her .  Puzzled, Chen Nian expressed her confusion, “I don’t really understand what that sentence means . ”

“Bei Ye,” Chen Nian asked softly, “What does it mean, when they say ‘looking at the stars’?”

“To me, it means this very moment . Right here, right now . ”

Chen Nian still remained puzzled and confused, the bewilderment evident on her pale face .

The corners of Bei Ye’s lips curved up to form a small, gentle smile . “Hopefully, you’ll be able to comprehend the meaning of this sentence one day . ”

“Will I?”

“You will . ” Bei Ye replied in a determined tone . “Do you believe that you would?”

“I do . You said I would, so I definitely would . ”