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

Chapter 8

“The clownfish is able to help the sea anemone remove dead tissues and various other parasites, whilst the clownfish is itself able to remove the parasites and bacteria growing on its very own body through the constant contact with the sea anemone’s tentacles . ”

As Chen Nian entered into the final two months of revision, she commonly encountered questions similar to the ones she had previously done, and could answer such questions without any difficulty . However, the teachers often emphasised that the examination setters enjoyed putting a new spin on old questions, and warned the students against being overconfident in their abilities .

Having completed the exam scripts Li Xiang had previously passed to her, she carefully compared her answers with Xiao Mi’s . The two close friends quietly discussed the questions which they had answered wrongly; by the time they completed their analysis of the papers, the school bell had begun to ring, signalling the end of class .

Chen Nian felt satisfied .

Chen Nian slowly stretched out her arms, and pointed to the corridor with her jaw, indicating to Xiao Mi that they ought to head out for a short breather . Standing in the corridor, the two close friends leaned against the railing and looked at the azure blue sky . As the rainy season had arrived, there was torrential rain every single night . However, the days still remained bright and sunny .

Xiao Mi piped up, “Chen Nian, ever since you returned from the Public Safety Beareau, you seem to be more relaxed than before . ”

Chen Nian replied, “I did……something which I ought……ought to have done earlier……and managed… . . to achieve……an acceptable result . ”

Xiao Mi understood what Chen Nian was referring to, and gave her an encouraging smile in response . However, Xiao Mi’s smile faltered after a few minutes . Curious, Chen Nian turned to see what had caught Xiao Mi’s attention – Zeng Hao had appeared at the school gates . Her parents had arrived to pick her up from school, and seemed to be persistently nagging at her .

After looking at Zeng Hao for some time, Chen Nian averted her gaze . As her gaze swept across the faraway field, she caught a glimpse of a group of youths walking past the school gates, all of them donning similar white t-shirts . Before she could take a closer look, however, the group of youths had already disappeared . None of them tried to enter the school compound by climbing up the high school gates .

Somehow, Chen Nian managed to learn bits and pieces about the story of that youth . Many years ago, a prostitute had alerted the police, reporting that she had been raped . The male was sentenced to imprisonment, passing away from an illness thereafter . Meanwhile, the prostitute continued on in her line of work, and simply left the child to fend for himself at the welfare centre .

Subsequently, that child managed to successfully grow into a youth . However, despite his complicated background, this youth wasn’t even the least bit threatening – in fact, Chen Nian never ever felt a single ounce of fear whenever she faced him .

Chen Nian’s train of thought was suddenly interrupted by Xiao Mi . “Chen Nian, sometimes I reflect upon the entire incident, and I wonder – were you truly the only person who saw Hu Xiao Die being bullied by Wei Cai and her group of friends?”

Chen Nian didn’t respond, and simply looked at Xiao Mi silently .

Xiao Mi began to explain herself, “I’m not chiding you . If I were in your shoes and had witnessed the bullying, I’d be afraid too . I’d be afraid that Wei Cai would unleash her anger on me if I tattled on her . There’s a high chance that I would have kept mum about the bullying incidents, because nobody could have expected Hu Xiao Die to commit suicide . If Xiao Die hadn’t died, the entire bullying incident wouldn’t even be worth mentioning; however, Xiao Die died, and as a result, the entire bullying incident takes on a more serious tone . ”

“I’ve thought…… . thought about these matters……too . ” Chen Nian began to rub her palms together subconsciously . “I’ve always focused on… . . leaving as soon as possible……I wasn’t concerned…… . about anything else, I didn’t…… . didn’t want any trouble . However, I……I also didn’t want to…… . to transform into the type of person……person I hated . ”

Xiao Mi continued, “That’s why you made a correct final decision, and spilt the beans . ”

Chen Nian responded, “But, choosing……choosing the right path……generally isn’t accompanied……by any benefits……only problems . ”

Chen Nian gently lowered her eyelids . She was truly feeling rather lost .

Xiao Mi cocked her head to the side, and let out a long sigh, “I don’t understand either . ”

The two close friends furrowed their brows, remaining silent and contemplative .

“No . Choosing the right path doesn’t only entail negative consequences . ” Xiao Mi suddenly spoke up, “Whenever somebody does the right thing or the wrong thing, his or her actions would definitely influence the people surrounding him or her . It’s like the law on energy transfer, there’d always be a chain effect . I hope that the world would always maintain its goodness, and not transform into something which I hate . I believe that every single person on Earth has the power to change the world, so we just need to start by consistently being good people . Even if it’s of minimal effect . Chen Nian,” Xiao Mi paused, turning to flash a bright smile at her before enthusiastically voicing out, “Let’s always be good people, shall we?”

Xiao Mi raised her arm in mid-air . Chen Nian saw the sunlight stream through the gaps in Xiao Mi’s fingers, the reddish glow of the sunlight gradually filling her with a huge sense of hope .

In that very moment, Chen Nian felt at peace . For once, the constant urge to leave and escape from this small school compound receded into the background .

On innumerable occasions, youths would stand by the railings and stare into the vast expanse of the sky, their brains frequently filled with endless questions which appeared to be unanswerable no matter how hard they thought about it . Day after day, year after year, these youths would contemplate the puzzling mysteries of society, the complicated interpersonal relationships, the meaning of right and wrong, the meaning of life, and the difference between kindness and evil .

When one is still a student, one would often feel that the passage of time is arduous and slow . Thus, one is often able to expend huge amounts of time to contemplate numerous things . However, as one grows up and gradually gets busier – as doctors, teachers, police officers, and owners of bread shops, one would be constantly preoccupied with making a living, and can no longer expend the same amount of time contemplating the very same issues that bothered them in their youth .

Perhaps, cracking one’s head over unsolvable problems is the true meaning of being a student .

Chen Nian turned back, only to see Zeng Hao on her way to class .

Her gaze collided with Zeng Hao’s . Without a single expression etched on her face, Chen Nian turned away, and walked into the classroom by herself . Retrieving a book from her desk, she lowered her head and continued her revision .

Once again, it was time for Physical Education . Chen Nian was feeling tired and sweaty from having played badminton with Li Xiang . As Li Xiang had huge amounts of energy, he continued playing badminton with his other male friends whilst Chen Nian returned to the classroom to rest .

In order to avoid the blazing sun, Chen Nian ran up to her classroom . As she casually trailed past the trees, numerous shadowy figures who had been waiting beneath the trees caught her attention .

Chen Nian’s heart dropped .

Wei Cai’s tall and slim figure was especially conspicuous at the head of the pack, the murderous hate in her eyes brutal and undisguised .

Chen Nian was stunned – she had assumed that Wei Cai and her group of friends would be placed under supervision! An overwhelming sense of fear and panic overcame Chen Nian in that very instant, causing Chen Nian to remain frozen on the spot .

“Well, well . Did you enjoy badminton?” Wei Cai sneered .

They began walking towards Chen Nian whilst Chen Nian remained rooted to her original spot . Chen Nian felt like a small rat which had been trapped by a mousetrap: at the brink of death, and yet unable to do anything to turn the situation around .

Chen Nian felt a harsh slap sear across her face . Li Xiang, Hu Xiao Die; Wei Cai now had a new vengeance against her in addition to the old, existing grudges . Her ears rang from the force of the slap .

Wei Cai gestured to her group of friends . Within moments, a group of two to three girls began pulling and tugging at Chen Nian . Despite her attempts to resist Wei Cai and her friends, Chen Nian’s efforts proved ineffectual; instead, she was rewarded with a few tight slaps . Just as Chen Nian was about to get dragged off by Wei Cai and her group of friends, an angry voice rang out, “What on earth are you guys doing?!”

Hugging her head tightly, Chen Nian obstinately refused to raise her head .

“Wei Cai! Luo Ting! And the rest of you! Are you all looking to fail graduation?!” The form teacher was enraged beyond words .

“Who allowed you guys to enter the school compound, huh?!” The furious form teacher continued chiding Wei Cai and her friends . However, Wei Cai and her friends paid no heed to the form teacher, none of them bothering to answer his stream of questions . Evidently, they were not in the least bit intimidated by the form teacher . Rolling their eyes at his incessant nagging, Wei Cai and her group of friends gradually began to disperse from the scene .

Just as Wei Cai strolled past Chen Nian, she gave Chen Nian a small, inconspicuous shove  . Staring into Chen Nian’s eyes, a cold smile formed on Wei Cai’s lips, “Just you wait . ”

Chen Nian’s heart contracted sharply .

Having overheard Wei Cai’s threat, the form teacher shouted, “You guys are still unrepentant?!”

Wei Cai and her group of friends didn’t even bother turning back to acknowledge the form teacher’s scolding, and simply strolled off in a rather lackadaisical fashion .

The form teacher was extremely enraged, and called every single parent of Wei Cai and her group of friends . Despite his insistence that the parents take their children in hand, the parents were too preoccupied with their work, and simply brushed him off . As a result, the form teacher’s fury only worsened after his calls .

Chen Nian remained rooted at her original spot, her hair and clothes in a terrible mess .

The anger of the form teacher subsided the moment he glanced at Chen Nian . Strolling over, he patted Chen Nian’s shoulders and sighed, “Don’t be affected by them, and don’t get distracted – just persevere a little longer . They will no longer be able to bother you after you complete your examinations . ”

Once, Chen Nian had pinned all her hopes and dreams on the upcoming examinations; now, the stairway to hope seemed so fragile and distant .

“Teacher……” Chen Nian raised her head and looked him in the eye, her lips trembling slightly, “Could you……send me home……after school?” Her voice was extremely small and shaky, as though it was a string entangled to the point of deformity, “She will……definitely find ways to……execute her……revenge . I know this……for sure . ”

The following week, Chen Nian didn’t dare to journey to and fro from school alone . Instead, the form teacher was responsible for fetching her to and fro from school . During the journey, Chen Nian frequently saw Wei Cai and her group of friends; they were like persistent spirits which refused to leave, and always stared at her from a distance away . Every single time, however, they only appeared for an instant – thus, by the time Chen Nian tried to point them out to the form teacher, they were no longer there .

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However, school was where Chen Nian’s nightmare truly began .

The remaining group of girls who were good friends with Wei Cai viewed Chen Nian as a thorn in their side, and frequently bullied and tormented Chen Nian – they began to blatantly mimic and mock her stutter in class without a single ounce of fear; they would frequently trip Chen Nian whenever she was distributing worksheets; and they even splashed red ink on her chair, so that Chen Nian’s white skirt would be splattered with ‘menstrual blood’ the moment she sat on her chair . After school, their bullying extended to secretly pinching Chen Nian whenever she walked past them and locking her into various cubicles; on innumerable occasions, they would splash Chen Nian with water ‘by accident’ in the course of their bantering, and whenever Chen Nian ‘blocked their way’, they would simply push her out of the way or even slap her directly .

Chen Nian had informed the form teacher about these bullying incidents, but this group of students were no longer amenable to the disciplinary actions of the school .

Li Xiang tried to help her several times . Chen Nian too, attempted to fight back . However, the end result was that the bullying became more severe . And when Xiao Mi attempted to help Chen Nian, she too, nearly became the target of bullying as well .

Many others, however, simply chose to turn a blind eye – like Zeng Hao .

Zeng Hao’s parents had instructed her to strictly keep herself out of these troublesome matters; rather than lashing out and making enemies, she ought to be fully focused on her studies instead . That day, when Zeng Hao and Wei Cai were at the Public Safety Bureau, Zeng Hao’s parents voluntarily forgave Wei Cai and subsequently forced the two to shake each other’s hands as a sign of “reconciliation” .

As a result, out of all the potential prey Wei Cai could hunt, only Chen Nian remained .

The school was akin to a community of biological animals . Just as animals instinctively yearn after various benefits and conscientiously avoid all forms of disadvantages, Chen Nian’s classmates naturally drifted away from Chen Nian, the current target of bullying and ostracism .

As graduation neared, the form teacher faced an increasing pile of work . As a result, he no longer had the effort and energy to deal with Chen Nian’s troubles, and could no longer find the time to send Chen Nian to and fro from school . Additionally, Wei Cai’s failure to reappear also helped to soothed his worries .

One day, the form teacher informed Chen Nian that he was no longer able to send her to and fro from school, and instructed her to contact him the moment she encountered any form of trouble as she was on her way to school .

That day, Chen Nian didn’t dare to stay in the classroom after school ended . Chen Nian didn’t dare to walk out of the school compound either, and simply lingered in the vicinity of the school gates . As her schoolmates streamed past her, she seemed akin to a mortal who was unable to move a single inch after having been placed in a protected zone by the immortals .

As the last student exited the school compound, the light in the guardhouse flashed on . The security guard exited his guardhouse, ready to purchase his dinner . Upon seeing Chen Nian, he asked out of curiousity, “Why aren’t you leaving?”

Chen Nian shook her head .

As Chen Nian’s legs gradually grew numb, she seated herself on the steps of the school gates . Silence descended upon her . As Chen Nian stared into the darkening sky, she felt as though she was trapped in her very own grave .

She was at the end of her rope .

A fuzzy memory suddenly flashed across her eyes . Hurriedly, she dug out Zheng Yi’s namecard from her school bag .

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By the time Zheng Yi arrived, the sky had already darkened completely . Soft glows of yellow light radiated weakly from the open windows of every household in the vicinity, as though each and every single household was an old lantern . Chen Nian quietly sat on the steps, her body curled into a small ball .

“I’m sorry I’m so late, work’s simply too busy . ” Zheng Yi huffed and puffed as he ran towards Chen Nian . Carefully, he patted Chen Nian’s skinny and frail shoulders, “Let’s go .

Chen Nian sat there, unmoving . Her arms were wrapped around her legs, and her head was buried in her lap . It was as though she was a pupa .

She was simply too tired .

The gentle night breeze drifted past Officer Zheng Yi’s drenched back, causing a small chill to run up his back . Gradually, Officer Zheng Yi sensed that Chen Nian wasn’t behaving normally . He distinctly recalled his promise to her – that as long as she told him the truth, punishment would definitely be meted out to that group of bullies .

However, they weren’t punished – not even in the slightest . Ultimately, the person who was dragged to hell was her . Chen Nian .

His inability to keep his promise filled him with a great sense of frustration and disappointment . He made an internal promise to himself – from this point forth, he would use his utmost effort to protect her, and shield her from harm .

Slowly, Officer Zheng squat down till he was at Chen Nian’s eye level . However, before he could even open his mouth, Chen Nian had already shook her head . Her gentle and quiet voice rang out in the night, “School, isn’t supposed to be like that . ”

Her single sentence rendered Zheng Yi speechless .

“Will University……be any better?” Chen Nian raised her head, her eyes filled with tears . “It will, won’t it?”

She pleaded, “It will definitely be better, right?”

Zheng Yi looked at the small and frail girl seated in front of him, his heart feeling as though it’s been stabbed by a knife .

Chen Nian’s eyes brimmed with tears, her lips quivering as she confessed, “Officer Zheng, I……I lied . I have……sinned . Sorry…… . Hu Xiao Die, that……that day when she……committed suicide, she…… . she did say something……to me . ”

Zheng Yi felt his heart tighten, “What did she say to you?”

“Wei Cai, and her friends, are bullying me, can’t all of you see that?”

Can’t all of you see that?

Why isn’t anyone doing anything?

Why aren’t you guys doing anything?!