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

Chapter 9

Zheng Yi felt rather helpless about the entire situation .

Zeng Hao’s family had forgiven Wei Cai, and simply viewed it a prank between classmates that unfortunately went overboard; although Hu Xiao Die was indeed on the receiving end of numerous bullying incidents, Hu Xiao Die’s death was ultimately caused by suicide . Thus, from a legal point of view, there was no direct connection between her death and Wei Cai’s bullying incidents .

With respect to Wei Cai’s physical humiliation and beating of Hu Xiao Die, the forensic investigator had already pronounced that the injuries on Hu Xiao Die’s body failed to meet the requisite criteria necessary to constitute an ‘injury’ under the law . Although procedure provides for Wei Cai and her group of friends to be detained for a certain period of time, they had been released on account of their young age .

Although Wei Cai was expelled from school, this was meaningless to Chen Nian .

Since Wei Cai and her group of friends were no longer in school, they transformed into a bunch of wild, rabid wolves on the streets, and had absolutely no restrictions or restraint . They concealed themselves near the roads to and fro from school, and pounced on you the very moment you let down your guard .

There was no war between the wolves and the sheep on the food chain – a war implied that both parties had equal power; instead, the wolves hunted whilst the sheep were devoured .

Zheng Yi began fetching Chen Nian to and fro from school on a daily basis .

He treated her extremely nicely . He would always purchase breakfast and dinner for her, and would occasionally bring her to various restaurants on the pretext that she was too skinny, and required additional nourishment .

Due to the nature of his job, Zheng Yi frequently worked irregular hours . As a result, Chen Nian gradually grew accustomed to sitting on the steps in front of her house whilst waiting for him . On several occasions, Chen Nian would even utilise the surrounding lights to memorise numerous vocabulary .

The warm glow of the early morning sun shone on her head and the back of her neck . Chen Nian saw her own shadow in front of her – the shadows around her head betrayed the tiny, unruly strands of hair that refused to be tamed .

Chen Nian glanced at her watch . She was going to be late once again . Redirecting her attention to the book in front of her, she simply continued with the calm memorization of her vocabulary .

The sound of approaching footsteps rang out, but it wasn’t Zheng Yi . Chen Nian held her breath, and gradually rose from her seat . She gingerly placed her right foot on the step before her, and readied herself to run back into the house if the situation called for it .

The face of the youth appeared beyond the surrounding walls . Taking a seemingly unconcerned glance beyond the walls out of habit, Bei Ye’s gaze grazed past the metal gates and collided with Chen Nian’s . The two of them stared at each other, the surprised and blank expression on their faces coloring the entire incident with a comical tone .

She hadn’t seen him for a long time . Bei Ye’s hair had grown longer during this period, and the bandage on his arm was now glaringly absent .

He took the initiative to begin the conversation, “What are you doing here?”

Chen Nian retracted her right foot in an inconspicuous manner, and straightened herself before explaining in a small voice, “This is……my home . ”

Stumped by her reply, Bei Ye only managed to continue the conversation after a minute had passed, “What I meant was, what are you doing here now? Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”

Chen Nian remained silent .

“I’m asking you a question . ” With his hand stuck in his pocket, Bei Ye kicked the metallic gates with his foot, and was about to enter the yard when Chen Nian’s voice rang out .

“It’s none……of your concern . ”

Bei Ye froze on the spot, the metallic gates still trembling with the remnant force of his kick . The breeze drifted past the two of them, causing the petals from the roses grown on the surrounding walls to swirl in the air, and ultimately land on his shoulders .

Chen Nian lowered her eyelids, and stuffed the vocabulary book into her bag . Ass she descended from the stairway and walked past Bei Ye in her attempt to get to school, she wondered whether he had grown taller since the last time she saw him .

Bei Ye turned his head and stared at her . After she had walked some distance away, he suddenly raised his foot and began to chase after her .

Chen Nian quickened her pace . The moment she saw Zheng Yi’s figure appear beyond the corner, she ran over to him with lightning speed .

Bei Ye, on the other hand, came to a sudden stop . He squinted at the both of them from a distance away . Ah, her cold attitude was now rather self-explanatory .

“Brother Bei –”

“Little Bei –”

His friends, Lai Zi and the yellow-haired Da Kang, caught up with him . Da Kang grabbed him by the shoulders and began chatting to Bei Ye . However, Bei Ye didn’t respond to any of Da Kang’s chatter . Puzzled at Bei Ye’s lack of response, Da Kang followed Bei Ye’s gaze, and ultimately saw Chen Nian . After scrutinizing Chen Nian for a period of time, he raised his voice in excitement, “Hey! Isn’t this the girl……” Da Kang suddenly recalled something, and pushed Bei Ye in a playful manner, “Do you know her?”

Bei Ye staggered slightly under Da Kang’s push . Turning away from Chen Nian, he began walking in the opposite direction . When he saw the white rose petals that had fallen on his shoulders, he brushed them off in an annoyed manner .

“Hey, so tell us – how did you get to know her?” The ever-curious Da Kang grabbed Bei Ye by the shoulders once more, and persisted in his relentless questioning .

“I owe her money . ” Bei Ye replied in a clipped tone .

“How much do you owe her?”

“So much I can’t even count . ” Furrowing his brows, Bei Ye shrugged off Da Kang’s arm .

When Bei Ye caught Lai Zi still staring in the direction Chen Nian had left, his brows furrowed even further . He chided, “What are you looking at?”

Lai Zi unwillingly turned back, only to see the yellow-haired Da Kang making eyes at him, hinting for him to keep his mouth shut . However, Lai Zi simply took Da Kang’s hint as an indication that Bei Ye wasn’t in the best of moods, and didn’t delve further into the Bei Ye’s puzzling behaviour . After all, Bei Ye was the coldest to girls amongst their group of friends – perhaps because of his mother, Bei Ye always had an inexplicable hatred for females . Through the years, Lai Zi had already lost count of the number of pretty girls who abandoned their pursuit of Bei Ye after receiving his disgusted gaze .

Chen Nian ran to Zheng Yi, and raised her head to look at him .

After the constant journeying to and fro from school, the two of them had managed to cultivate a certain degree of tacit understanding . Without Chen Nian needing to open her mouth, Zheng Yi could already understand what she wanted to ask . “I have already informed your form teacher in advance that we’re going to be late, no worries . ”

Chen Nian nodded her head, and quickly walked ahead . When she turned round the corner, she turned back and glanced behind her in a seemingly unconcerned fashion; only to find that the alley was now empty . The youth was no longer there .

Zheng Yi passed Chen Nian the breakfast which he had purchased for her . Today, it was a freshly baked waffle . Chen Nian accepted the waffle, and began munching on it as she walked to school .

Zheng Yi was only six years older then Chen Nian . Although a fresh graduate from University had no lack of topics to talk about with a graduating high school student, Chen Nian’s was rather silent most of the time, and never took the initiative to converse with him . Additionally, she often replied his queries with monosyllabic words . Zheng Yi guessed that Chen Nian was uncomfortable with conversation due to her stutter . Thus, he never ever forced her to converse with him .

When they reached the main road, Zheng Yi tugged on Chen Nian’s arm as a reminder for her to take note of the traffic light, which was presently a bright red colour .

“Chen Nian . ”


“What do you want to major in when you enter University?”

Chen Nian swallowed her waffle before answering, “Math……mathematics or… . Physics . ”

Mildly surprised, he lowered his head and smiled at her gently, “Why Physics or Mathematics?”

Chen Nian lowered her head, and answered honestly, “These are……fundamental subjects, and have…… . plenty of scholarships; it’s…… . easier to…… . go overseas . ” After a slight pause, she added comfortingly, “For……further studies . ”

Zheng Yi’s smile froze . Chen Nian’s facial expression was extremely calm . Slowly, Chen Nian began to munch on the waffle once more . She had always been like that – she never ever displayed her anger or her happiness publicly . It was as though she was a plastic doll, calm and emotionless .

The traffic light turned green .

Zheng Yi silently grabbed her skinny arm, and led her across the road . Even after having reached the opposite end of the traffic light, Zheng Yi still hadn’t loosened his grip on Chen Nian .

Chen Nian gently squirmed out of his grip . Zheng Yi was momentarily stunned . Suddenly, he was struck by the realization that although he saw Chen Nian as a little child, he wasn’t a parent figure to her, but was simply a young male in her eyes .

Subconsciously, he turned his head to look at Chen Nian . She was wearing a simple school uniform . Although she was rather skinny, the figure of the youthful girl was fresh and gentle, and had the signature air of vibrancy which youths her age all had .

He retracted his gaze .

After walking for a period of time, Zheng Yi suddenly asked, “Do you blame me?”

Chen Nian remained silent for a few seconds before gently shaking her head .

“Are you disappointed?”

This time, Chen Nian didn’t move . Instead, she continued eating her waffle in silence .

The flowers were in full bloom . Chen Nian and Zheng Yi walked beneath the shade of the trees .

“Chen Nian, I’m sorry . I’m sorry that you had to see such ugliness and cruelty at such a young age . I’m sorry that you had to discover at such a young age, that justice doesn’t always exist, that justice doesn’t always prevail . The world is frequently unfair, and we are often powerless to change the unfair ways of the world . However, I still hope that you will not lose hope in society, and that you will not lose hope in humanity . ”

Chen Nian continued eating her waffle, choosing not to respond to Zheng Yi .

“Acts that benefit oneself often conflict with acts that benefit others . ” Zheng Yi continued, “But, if we choose to do the wrong thing, we would gradually lose all hope in society . When I was growing up, people often said that one would slowly lose oneself in one’s environment, and that my idealistic thinking would gradually fade with time . At that time, I was terribly unconvinced by their words, and I silently made a pact to myself – that I would not cave in to societal pressure, that I would not transform into a person I dislike . ”

“Chen Nian, don’t be influenced or affected by them . Don’t transform into a worse person simply because of them . ”

Still, Chen Nian gave no response to Zheng Y’s words . Having finished the waffle, she threw the plastic wrapper into the rubbish bin . Zheng Yi showed no signs of displeasure or unhappiness . Instead, a gentle smile formed on his lips, and gently patted Chen Nian on the head . Chen Nian raised her head, her gaze slightly forlorn and lost .

Upon reaching the entrance of the school, Zheng Yi asked, “Is there anything else bothering you?”

Chen Nian shook her head .

“Go on then . ”

As it was class time, the school compound was empty and quiet . Chen Nian turned back, and saw Zheng Yi still standing at the school entrance . Zheng Yi gave Chen Nian a small, short wave before walking off .

After Chen Nian told Zheng Yi about the bullying incidents that happened in school, he took the initiative to look for those girls in private and talked to them . Chen Nian wasn’t sure whether the girls truly understood their mistakes, but at the very least, they no longer harassed and tormented her . Now, Chen Nian could simply stay in her quiet corner and focus on her studies .

As she walked past the bulletin board, the notice that was counting down to the final examinations jumped out at her . 45 days left .

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After her examinations, she would have plenty of time on her hands; as she no longer had to attend school on a regular basis, she could take up taekwondo lessons . Once she filled in her university application form, she would b free to return to her mum’s side – however, before she made her escape, she would buy the nice cup she saw in the gift shop as a present for Zheng Yi, as a reminder to drink more water .

That day, after school had ended, Chen Nian went to the gift shop once again . The gift shop had newly stocked a variety of cups, and was of better quality than the one Chen Nian had originally picked out . Of course, the price was more expensive as well . After some thought, Chen Nian felt that the protection and care which Zheng Yi offered her is not something that could be repaid with a single cup . However, all she could offer him was a cup; she wasn’t able to afford anything more expensive than that .

Walking out of the gift shop, Chen Nian was surprised to see that Zheng Yi was already waiting for her at the entrance of the school . Chen Nian hurriedly ran over to his side . His back was facing her, and he gaze was fixed on the horde of students streaming out of the school compound . Chen Nian hesitated for a moment, before finally deciding to poke his back .

Zheng Yi turned back, and broke into a smile the moment he saw Chen Nian .

Chen Nian’s brows were furrowed together, and her gaze filled with questions; Zheng Yi understood Chen Nian’s confusion, and explained, “I managed to get off work on time today . ”

The two of them began the journey to Chen Nian’s home .

Zheng Yi asked, “Since I finally have some time on hand, what would you like to have for dinner tonight?”

Chen Nian didn’t want Zheng Yi to incur additional expenses, and replied, “There’s some……noodles at home . ” After some thought, she added, “Let’s eat……noodles to……together . ”

Chen Nian was, in her own way, trying her best to repay Zheng Yi and invite him over to her house . Momentarily stunned, Zheng Yi was at a loss of words; however, he quickly recovered and rubbed his hair awkwardly whilst shyly smiling at Chen Nian, “That works too . ”

As they neared Chen Nian’s house, Chen Nian pondered over whether she ought to head to the supermarket to purchase some vegetables – after all, they couldn’t possibly eat their noodles without any toppings . Just then, Zheng Yi’s mobile phone rang . Zheng Yi answered the call . As the conversation progressed, Zheng Yi’s brows began furrowing together . Finally, he said, “I’ll come over now . ”

An extremely gruesome case had occurred, and Zheng Yi was required to rush over immediately . Chen Nian said, “Just go ahead, I……I don’t have school…… . . tomorrow and the day after tomorrow . ”

Since Zheng Yi had already left, Chen Nian no longer intended to purchase any vegetables .

When Chen Nian was a mere two streets away from her house, she suddenly saw Wei Cai appear before her . Although Zheng Yi had been sending her to and fro from school the past few days, Chen Nian’s wariness had not diminished in the slightest – as such, Chen Nian began sprinting in the opposite direction the very moment she spotted Wei Cai .

The hunt began in the alley .

Bicycles, pedestrians, vehicles, roadside stalls – nobody knew what the young student was running from, what she was hiding from; neither will they give any thought to what the group of students chasing after her were going to inflict upon her . The youthful girls were like a breeze that rushed past them, leaving absolutely no traces behind .

Rushing out of the alley, Chen Nian ran onto the main road, nearly getting knocked over by a car in the process . The driver of the car hurriedly stepped on his brakes, and wound down his window to holler at her, “Are you courting death?!”

Chen Nian looked back . Wei Cai and her group of friends had begun crossing the road – they had absolutely no intention of abandoning the chase .

Chen Nian hurried crawled up, and staggered away . She ran into a small and old condominium, only to find that the backdoor had been locked!

Chen Nian stared at the backdoor, the despair and shock evident in her eyes . Breathing heavily, Chen Nian rushed to the door and started shaking it vigorously . However, the heavy metal door refused to budge .

Innumerable mosquitoes were dancing in the nearby rubbish pile . Behind her, Chen Nian could hear the voices of Wei Cai and her group of friends growing ever closer . Without a second thought, Chen Nian dived into the rubbish bin .

The stench was overwhelmingly powerful . Chen Nian used her hands to cover her mouth and her nose . The heat of the summer caused her entire uniform to be drenched in her sweat .

Just now, Chen Nian had been overly preoccupied with running; thus, the feelings of fear and worry were temporarily forgotten . Now, Chen Nian had to pay the price . Fear was like a bug – it wormed into her every single pore, and gnawed at every single part of her body .

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“F***, where’s that bi***?!”

“Did she run to the back of the east block?”

“Bi***! F***, she better not give me an opportunity to lay my hands on her!”

A few rats squirmed out of the rubbish pile, and squeaked at Chen Nian . With their small black eyes warily focused on Chen Nian, they carefully inched to her feet . Frightened out of her wits, Chen Nian stared at them with widened eyes . Both her hands were tightly clamped to her mouth, and she still refused to make a single sound .

Her sweat poured down like rain and flowed into her eyes, causing her eyes to sting in pain .

Her sweaty legs were stuck together . The mosquitoes and houseflies were feeding on her pale, skinny legs .

Suddenly, Chen Nian thought of Hu Xiao Die . Like everybody else, she too, had turned a blind eye to the bullying and torture inflicted on Hu Xiao Die . Now, she suffered the same fate as Hu Xiao Die – nobody could ‘see’ the bullying and torture inflicted on her, and nobody would try to stand up for her .

After a long period of time, when a deathly silence had descended on Chen Nian’s surroundings, Chen Nian mustered her remnant energy and crawled out from the rubbish bin . She was totally drenched, as though she had been scooped up from a river .

Chen Nian slowly trudged through the alley, as though she was a soulless zombie . She didn’t dare to return home; neither did she dare to walk on the roads which she usually travelled .

The familiar scent of bread caught her attention . She raised her head, and saw the familiar bumpy and rough walls surrounding the steel rolling mill, the rusty emergency stairwell, and the window which that youth had clambered over previously . The setting sun hung low in the sky, partially illuminating the world with its weak rays of sunshine .

The aroma of the freshly baked bread caused her stomach to grumble in hunger . With great effort, she crawled up the bumpy walls, and climbed onto the narrow cement ledge . She tugged at the window, but it was locked .

Exhausted, Chen Nian sat herself down on the narrow cement ledge . Any slight movement from Chen Nian could easily result in her falling from the cement ledge – however, it was of little use to her, as the fall would not result in her death; instead, it would only cause her to break her legs .

The night breeze helped to dry the layer of sweat on Chen Nian’s body . As the setting sun shone on her grimy face, Zheng Yi’s words suddenly flashed before her, “I hope that you will not lose hope in society, and that you will not lose hope in humanity . ”

With a blank expression on her face, Chen Nian mechanically opened her mouth . After some time, she managed to squeak out a single word, “Please……”

As the sun continued to set, the sky gradually began to darken . The light bulbs in the numerous shops began to light up one after the other – Kacha, Kacha . The scent of freshly baked bread drifted past Chen Nian, again and again . However, Bei Ye’s light never lit up .

Chen Nian was akin to a homeless spirit hovering outside Bei Ye’s window .

She carefully pronounced each and every word, and slowly practiced that single sentence, “Please……”

There were innumerable mosquitoes in the summer night, and they stung Chen Nian’s arms, legs, neck, and face . However, Chen Nian remained entirely focused on practicing that single sentence, “Please……”

The sky had, by now, darkened entirely, and flashes of lightning streaked across the black night sky . Finally, Chen Nian heard the shutter door clang open with a loud noise . The very next moment, dim light emanated from within .

Raising her head, she quietly stared at the window .

There were numerous sounds originating from the house – Chen Nian could hear the scraping of the chair against the floor and the fan being turned on; she could hear the toilet door being kicked open, the sound of somebody peeing, and the subsequent flush of the toilet bowl…

After what seemed like a century, the sharp and skinny shadow of the youth finally appeared behind the curtains of the window . As the youth opened the curtains, the warm, golden light pierced the darkness of the night and bathed Chen Nian in its yellow glow .

Bei Ye stared at her, astounded and speechless .

Chen Nian didn’t stutter – without a single pause in her speech, she pleaded, “Please protect me . ”