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

Chapter 17

In Chapter 17 of The Youthful You Who Was So Beautiful, we begin to see the cracks in Bei Ye and Chen Nian’s quiet lives – now that Wei Cai is officially found to be dead, the police will begin to ramp up investigations . Why is Wei Cai dead? Did Chen Nian really kill her? Or was it the raincoat suspect? Or could it be Bei Ye? All our dear Chen Nian can do now is tightly hang on to her trust and faith in Bei Ye, and if he said she didn’t cause Wei Cai’s death, she’d just believe that she didn’t do it .


Self-revision period .

The form teacher waltzed into the classroom, and rapped on the podium with his knuckles . The students raised their heads from their revision materials, and focused their attention on the form teacher .  On successfully gathering the students’ attention, the form teacher launched into a speech warning the students about protecting oneself and being wary of strangers .

“Especially female students,” The form teacher cautioned, “Try not to go to places where there’s very little people, and try not to linger around in empty parks and mountainous areas . If you must, go in a huge group – and try your best not to head out at night . ”

Curious, a student asked, “Did something happen?”

The form teacher reassured the class, “Nothing happened – but I thought it’d be good to warn the class about safety measures since the graduation exams are nearing . ” Having clarified the situation, the form teacher continued his lecture by reminding students about having clean eating habits and hygiene issues .

But the sensitive youths continued to scrutinise and analyse the form teacher’s every word, and every emotion; when the form teacher left the classroom, the entire classroom began to buzz in excitement .

“Something happened . Something definitely happened . ”

“Did you notice the form teacher’s tone? ‘Especially female students . ’ – Ah, I bet it has something to do with that . ”

“What’s ‘that‘?”

“Don’t you know? I mentioned it before – the rapist who goes around committing sexual assaults in a huge raincoat! You guys brushed it off so easily before, surely you guys believe me now?”

“Oh—-” Understanding dawned on the various students .

Chen Nian wasn’t concerned in the slightest, and placed a dried plum in her mouth . Zeng Hao, who was seated in front of Chen Nian, turned back and sprawled on Chen Nian’s desk . Angling her head to keep Chen Nian in view, she signalled for Chen Nian to close the distance between them . Chen Nian shifted herself closer to Zeng Hao, as did Xiao Mi . When the three of them were sufficiently close, Zeng Hao blurted, “I think that there’s a high possibility that the person our form teacher was referring to is Wei Cai . ”

Chen Nian and Xiao Mi were instantly shocked .

Zeng Hao contiued, “I’m sure of it . I’m not lying to you two – I’ll even swear on my examination pass . ”

Th dried plum began to dissolve in Chen Nian’s mouth, overwhelming Chen Nian’s tastebuds with its sourness . Carefully, Chen Nian inquired, “What happened…to her?”

A look of hesitation flickered across Zeng Hao’s face, as though she felt awkward about what she was going to say next . “She was first raped, then murdered . ”

Chen Nian: “……”

Xiao Mi exclaimed, “Are you sure about this? You’re telling us this based off some rumours, aren’t you?!”

“It’s true!” Zeng Hao retorted, “Do you remember the huge storm that happened one week ago? It was one of the last storms that occurred at the end of the rainy season . In any event, the rain caused the San Shui bridge to collapse . ”

Everybody knew about this piece of news . The San Shui bridge was a metal bridge that collapsed recently . However, as it was located in a deserted and isolated location, there were no deaths and injuries resulting from its collapse . Given the minimal impact it had, it wasn’t good gossip material, and wasn’t something that the graduating batch of students were concerned with .

“When the workers went into the water to clean up the debris, they discovered a single shoe . Initially, they simply thought that it was a piece of rubbish, and threw it aside . It was only later when they discovered……”

Xiao Mi interrupted, “The shoe belonged to Wei Cai?”

“Exactly! After Wei Cai disappeared, the Missing Persons poster was put up everywhere . Even the clothes and shoes that she wore that day were displayed on the web . ”

“What happened next?”

“Of course the workers reported the incident to the Police! The Police began to scour the area, and finally found a female corpse in the muddy bank beside the river, about 1 km away from the San Shui bridge . ”

Xiao Mi pressed on, “She was buried in the muddy bank?”

“Yes – and when the police uncovered her corpse, she was entirely naked without a single piece of clothing on her!”

“But — that doesn’t necessarily mean that she was raped and murdered . ”

“You probably don’t know this, but…” Lowering her voice, Zeng Hao whispered to Chen Nian and Xiao Mi, “there are quite a couple of girls in Xi Cheng who have already been, you know, that . It’s just that the culprit has yet to be caught . ”

Everybody knew what Zeng Hao was referring to .

Chen Nian suddenly recalled the time she went to San Shui Bridge, and Zheng Yi’s reminder for her to be especially careful when she was heading to and fro from school . Doubtful, she inquired, “Even then, how do we know that the corpse is actually Wei Cai?”

“Where do you think Wei Cai disappeared to? I have a feeling that the corpse is Wei Cai . It’s definitely her . ” Zeng Hao said confidently .

If the corpse was truly Wei Cai, and she had died in such a nasty fashion, she must have endured insufferable pain before she died . Chen Nian chewed on the dried plum, a terrible and grotesque sense of happiness rising in her heart . On sensing her sense of happiness, Chen Nian immediately surveyed her own heart, and felt overcome with a sense of embarrassment and shame .

Afternoon break .

Chen Nian sat cross legged on the cool bamboo mat . As Bei Ye sprinkled small droplets of water on the area surrounding the bamboo mat in an attempt to lower the temperature of the room, Chen Nian told him the rumours surrounding Wei Cai . Bei Ye simply gave a cursory “oh” in response, and didn’t bother engaging Chen Nian further in the topic . The electric fan messed up his fringe, causing his fringe to cover his eyes, effectively shielding his expression from view .

“Do you suppose, it really is Wei Cai?” Chen Nian asked .

“How am I supposed to know?” Bei Ye raised his eyes to look at Chen Nian, “I’m not the police . ”

Having sprinkled the water, the room felt marginally cooler than before . Bei Ye sat himself on the bamboo mat and told Chen Nian, “Let’s sleep . ”

Chen Nian lay on the bamboo mat and closed her eyes; Bei Ye lay on the mat beside Chen Nian, and gently shut his eyes as well . The electric fan whirred quietly, the gentle wind grazing across their skins and offering them some much-needed comfort . After some time, the heat gradually dissipated . When Bei Ye carefully placed a pillow cover on Chen Nian’s tummy, Chen Nian opened her eyes .

On seeing Chen Nian stare at him with her eyes wide open, Bei Ye asked in a low, muted voice, “Did I wake you up?”

Chen Nian shook her head, and continued gazing at him .

“What’s the matter?” Bei Ye asked .

Chen Nian finally spoke up, her voice quivering slightly, “That day, when you went to the hill behind the school building – was Wei Cai really missing by the time you arrived?”

“Yes . ”

“If so, why did you return home so late, that day?”

“I combed the entire hill very carefully . ”

Chen Nian opened her mouth; ultimately, no words came out of her mouth, and she simply stared at Bei Ye quietly . She had a pair of eyes that spoke volumes, but at this very moment, her gaze was void of any message . She appeared to be extremely troubled and confused, but at the same time, she had no idea what she was confused about .

A distant smile formed on Bei Ye’s lips, “Do you think that I’m lying to you?”

“That’s not it . ” Chen Nian protested weakly .

“Let’s sleep . ” Bei Ye suggested once more .

Chen Nian shut her eyes, as did Bei Ye . When Bei Ye and Chen Nian woke up from their afternoon nap, Bei Ye made arrangements to send Chen Nian to school . Just as the two youths exited the abandoned steel mill and ventured onto the wild, grassy area surrounding the mill, a bright, youthful voice rang out from behind them, “Bei Ye!”

It was Bei Ye’s friends – Da Kang and Lai Zi, youths who, like him, were extremely tall and skinny, and who frequently played hooky with him as well . Chen Nian instantly hid herself behind Bei Ye, grabbing onto Bei Ye’s shirt as tightly as she could . She was trembling – Bei Ye could feel it . After that incident, she had begun to fear all youthful hooligans, except for him .

“Bei Ge[1] –”

“Xiao[2] Bei –”

[1] Ge is directly translated into older brother; and [2] Xiao means little, young . By addressing Bei Ye as Brother Bei and Little Bei, the two friends are showing their affection for him and how close they are to him .

The two youthful hooligans ran over to Bei Ye, “Let’s go skate at the half-pipe!”

“You guys go ahead, I’d join you guys shortly . ”

The wind rustled across the grassy plains, whipping strands of Chen Nian’s long black hair and her white, clean skirt into view .

“What’s going on with you recently? What have you been busy with?” When Da Kang tried to peer over Bei Ye’s back, Bei Ye swiftly stepped to the right, completely blocking Chen Nian from view . Da Kang raised his eyes in surprise, only to see the harsh warning in Bei Ye’s eyes . It was as though Bei Ye was staring at an enemy . Stunned, Da Kang stared blankly at Bei Ye – he had grown up together with Bei Ye, and Bei Ye had always treated him as a brother . This was the very first time Bei Ye was so hostile towards him . The two brothers stared at each other – stalemate .

On sensing the hostility brewing between his two friends, Lai Zi stepped forward and tugged at Da Kang’s arm . In a small voice, he tried to defuse the situation, “Let’s go skate first, we can always talk later . ”

Da Kang glanced at the two shadows beside Bei Ye’s feet, a short shadow and a tall shadow had formed, and were stuck together, like two inseperable figures; Da Kang was extremely unhappy, and wanted to leave Bei Ye with some harsh words in order to express his unhappiness and dissatisfaction with Bei Ye’s absence the past few days . In the end, Da Kang only managed a sarcastic asnarl, “Guess you’re exactly like those guys, huh? Gals before pals . ”

Stalking back in the direction he had originally come from, he shrugged Lai Zi’s hand off, “You — Get lost too!”

Lai Zi turned to look at Bei Ye, and was about to chide him when he noticed Bei Ye’s gaze . Swallowing his words, he said feebly, “I’ll call you later . ” And then, Lai Zi ran off too .

Bei Ye reached behind him, and grabbed Chen Nian’s hand gently . Chen Nian’s palm was drenched in sweat, and she was gripping his shirt so tightly that he had to expend a fair amount of effort to loosen her grip . Chen Nian’s face was deathly pale, and she lowered her head, refusing to look into Bei Ye’s eyes .

“Is that person……you friend?”

“Not anymore . ”

Bei Ye held her hand gently, before slowly tightening his grip . She too, gradually tightened her grip, the strength of the two youths tying them together tightly . Slowly traversing the wild plains, the two youths walked on in silence . Certain things were best left unsaid .

The red string continued to hang around his right wrist . It was a meaningless object, but because of his love, it became very precious to him .

Slowly, he tightened his grip on her .

However, ultimately, he had no choice but to loosen his grip on her . They had reached the main road, and could no longer stroll alongside each other .

When it was time to cross the road, Chen Nian waited at the curb for the light to turn green, whilst Bei Ye waited beneath the shade of the tree, five metres away from her .  Chen Nian felt a tap on her shoulder . Turning back, she discovered Zheng Yi standing right behind her . Instinctively, Chen Nian wanted to glance at Bei Ye’s direction, but she didn’t .

“Officer Zheng……”

“Chen Nian,” Zheng Yi smiled gently, “Why are you running about in the afternoon?” As he had previously sent Chen Nian to and fro from school, he knew that Chen Nian often stayed in the school compounds during afternoon break .

Chen Nian replied, “I……I return home sometimes during afternoon break . ”

“Ah, sprawling on your desk mustn’t be very comfortable . ” The light turned green . Jabbing his chin in the direction of the road, Zheng Yi continued, “Let’s go . ”

Chen Nian followed him, her heart pounding in her chest as an uneasy sensation crawled up her spine . After some time, she asked carefully, “Why……are you……in the area?”

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“Oh, I came to look for you . I didn’t expect to see you here, I thought you were in school!”

“Why are you looking for me?”

As a car made a sharp right turn and cut into Chen Nian’s path, Zheng Yi pulled Chen Nian’s arm and tugged her backwards . Her skin was slightly cool . Within moments, she had freed herself from his grasp . Hazily sensing a barrier between the two of them, Zheng Yi simply accounted for it by assuming that it was because the two of them hadn’t met for a long time, and that she was suffering from a lot of stress in school . Reigniting the conversation, he asked, “Graduation exams are nearing, aren’t they? How’s your preparation? Have you been well?”

“Same…old . ”

“Yes, just tackle the examinations head on with a calm and collected heart . ” After some time, Zheng Yi reminded Chen Nian, “In the future, go home early as soon as possible, and try not to head to isolated places alone . ”

Ah . Zheng Yi finally started on his main point .

Chen Nian nodded, “Our teacher…already reminded us to be careful . ”

“That’s good to hear . ” Zheng Yi nodded his head . Lowering his head, Zheng Yi mulled for some time before continuing, “Try to stay away from boys your age, and don’t be so quick to trust them . More importantly, don’t go into a boy’s home alone . If you ever encounter a dangerous situation, stay calm, and don’t agitate the other party . ”

Chen Nian’s heart tightened . With a guilty conscience, she regarded Zheng Yi warily .  Does he know about Bei Ye’s existence? Speedily collecting her thoughts, Chen Nian overturned her initial suspicions – based on what Zheng Yi said, it seemed that the police had managed to lock down a suspect pool .

Raising her head, Chen Nian was about to enquire further when she realized that her questions concerned confidential information which Zheng Yi would be unable to divulge . Shutting her mouth, she lowered her head and continued walking .

On reaching the entrance of the school, Zheng Yi paused, “Could you wait for a moment?” Jogging to the convenience store, he bought an ice-cream for Chen Nian . Chen Nian accepted the ice-cream, the iciness helping to soothe her warm palm . Zheng Yi broke into a bright smile, and encouraged her, “All the best for your studies . I’ll be slightly busier during this period of time, so I wouldn’t be able to drop by often . I’ll treat you to a meal when examinations end!”

Chen Nian responded, “Sure . ”

Zheng Yi left . When Chen Nian gazed at his retreating back, she spotted Bei Ye in the distance .

He was standing erect beneath the plane tree, the broken streams of sunlight shining on him through the leaves of the plane tree .

Chen Nian stood on the steps of the school entrance, her ice-cream in her hand . She couldn’t go over to him; neither could he come over to her .

After casting a single glance at Chen Nian, Bei Ye turned and left . It was as though he had never been present . A stream of broken sunlight continued to illuminate him gently .

Chen Nian returned to school .

As the time for class neared, the entire classroom began buzzing in surprise . Somehow, various students had received news that the identity of the corpse discovered in the muddy bank near the river had been ascertained .

It was Wei Cai .

Zeng Hao’s eyes were extremely bright as she blabbered to Chen Nian, “Finally! She went down to accompany Xiao Die . — Oh, that’s not right .  Xiao Die must have gone to Heaven but Wei Cai would definitely be in hell . ”

There wasn’t a single person that feared a dead person; thus, one would be able to express one’s hatred and unhappiness without fear of any backlash .

As Xiao Mi had been sighing the entire afternoon, Chen Nian enquired, “Are you alright?”

Xiao Mi replied glumly, “I’m slightly troubled . ”

“Is it because of Wei Cai?”

“Yes . ” Xiao Mi nodded, “Even though she was detestable, somehow, I do feel a sense of pity for her now . As much as I disliked her, I’d rather she be alive than dead . ”

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Conversely, Chen Nian couldn’t figure out what she truly felt about Wei Cai, and she had no idea whether it was better for Wei Cai to be alive or dead . In front of Xiao Mi, Chen Nian was overcome with a deep sense of shame and hopelessness – although the two of them were best friends, there were ultimately some things that separated the two of them, and she had absolutely no idea how to cross that barrier and confess everything to Xiao Mi .

“I don’t understand this world . ” Xiao Mi finally concluded dejectedly . When Hu Xiao Die had committed suicide, she had said the exact same thing in her bewilderment and confusion .

As Xiao Mi wasn’t feeling rather down, she went to the washroom to wash up whilst Chen Nian returned to the classroom; upon reaching the classroom, Xu Miao came over and sat on Hu Xiao Die’s seat before turning back to look at Chen Nian, “Wei Cai gave me a call on the day she went missing . ”

Chen Nian gazed at her emotionlessly .

Xu Miao sighed, “She told me about what happened to you, and that she was going to meet you at the hill behind the school building . She invited me to “admire” your flustered and panicked state, and tried to convince me that since she was going to meet you during Physical Education class, my parents wouldn’t be able to discover even if I had gone . ”

Chen Nian continued staring at Xu Miao, her expression frozen in place .

“I didn’t want to continue being like Wei Cai, so I rejected her . In the past, I used to think that bullying people was a “cool” and “fun” thing to do – but having thought about it carefully, I realised that it was a really stupid thing to do . ”

Chen Nian said, “Thankfully, you didn’t go . ”

Xu Miao felt rather awkward and embarrassed, “Nowadays, I get disciplined by my dad and mum every single day . I’m ashamed whenever I think back on what I did in the past . But Chen Nian, that day, when you met Wei Cai, she didn’t bully you any further, did she?”

In her eyes, Chen Nian was simply a weak and helpless creature that could only ever be the target of bullying . The thought that Chen Nian was a suspect didn’t even cross her mind .

The vivd image of Wei Cai’s taunting and proud expression as she displayed the video in front of her flashed across her eyes . That day, Wei Cai had insulted her, threatened her, and frightened her, claiming that the bad luck and bullying that she had suffered thus far would continue to be inflicted upon her . Gently shaking her head, Chen Nian answered calmly, “No, she didn’t . ”

“Oh . ” Xiao Miao closed the distance between her and Chen Nian, and whispered to her, “Don’t tell anyone else that you met Wei Cai in private that day . Otherwise, you’d have to sit through countless interrogation sessions . If that’s the case, you wouldn’t have any time to study and prepare for the graduation exams . ”

Chen Nian nodded her head .

However, the news of Wei Cai’s death was like a winged dove, and had already spread through the entire school compound within half a day . When Chen Nian left the classroom for Physical Education class, she overheard the younger students discussing the matter animatedly .

“Hey, have you ever watched the American drama series ‘Criminal Minds‘?”

“No, is it any good?”

“It’s super good, go look for it on the Internet! Let me tell you – Wei Cai is the breaking point for the serial rapist . The raincoat man has now further evolved in his criminal ways – from now on, whenever he assaults females sexually, he would definitely murder them after the deed . ”

“Ah? Is that really true? You aren’t fibbing, are you?”

“It’s true! The television serials all say so . The sense of excitement he feels whenever he rapes the females is no longer sufficient to satisfy his perverted desires . Now that he’s murdered a person, it’s like opening a Pandora’s box – he would only be able to feel satisfaction and happiness by continually murdering more and more people . ”

“That’s so scary!! But you’re really amazing, you could totally be an expert in the future!”

“But of course – that’s my ambition . ”

Many students were in the midst of discussing Wei Cai’s death .

However, before night could even descend, some students had already begun to playfully light the candles in various classrooms . Increasingly, more and more youths began joining in and lighting the numerous candles . They hopped around playfully, laughing and jumping, their boisterous mood seemingly infectious as an increasing number of students began to chatter and buzz in excitement . Finally, the discipline master stepped in to chide the students when the lighted candles nearly caused a fire hazard . As such, the prayer event was cancelled .

Sometimes, Chen Nian truly felt,

That school was, in actuality, an odd and unique zoo, where every single youth was like a flower, a blade of grass, or even a tree .  Some youths were beautiful, whilst others were ugly; some youths alternated between being beautiful at times, and ugly during other times;

They were like kudzus and pine trees, always competing with each other for sunlight and rainwater, struggling to survive at the expense of the other; they were like lichens and moss, both requiring the other’s help to achieve a common benefit; but more often than not, they were like trees and shrubs, each managing to find a location each is comfortable with, and each minding his or her own business .

And for those who were unable to survive school – how could they ever expect to survive society at large?