After the excitement of chapter 4, we see how Cheng Zheng’s and Yun Jin’s relationship has changed since then. Alas, all is not well on the romantic front as a major misunderstanding arises…
In their classmates’ eyes, Cheng Zheng’s and Yun Jin’s relationship didn’t change post ‘sanitary pad incident’. Cheng Zheng still messed with her and Su Yun Jin wouldn’t react but maintain her silence. Everyone knew not to bring up that incident again, not that anyone even dared to. The matter was glossed over, as though it had never happened. But Cheng Zheng was worried deep down; what had transpired between them should have altered their relationship. What was worse was he couldn’t read Yun Jin’s expression and the more she kept silent, the more unsettled he felt.
Sometimes Cheng Zheng wished she would turn nasty and perhaps even slap him or call him a jerk. Then perhaps he would feel better. It would also prove that the kiss really did happen and wasn’t a figment of his imagination. Whether she overheard his parting words, whether she knew how he really felt about her, whatever it was, she shouldn’t be so indifferent.
Cheng Zheng no longer fired vicious words at her but he still loved to rock her chair. When she would turn back with a furrow, he would grin at her. She was lithe, and sometimes, he could just make out her white bra-straps under the blue uniform thinned-out from countless washings. Cheng Zheng always reigned in his thoughts before they got out of hand; as it was, everytime he caught a glimpse his face would flush and his heart would palpitate madly. Many years later, whenever Cheng Zheng recalled those summer days in year three, how he would look at her from behind, he would feel nostalgic.
However infatuated Cheng Zheng was with her, he could not deny that Yun Jin was no good at her studies. In fact, he could not remember a time when she had passed Math class. What was even more exasperating was that whenever she got stuck with a problem sum, she would merely stare at her paper when there he was behind her practically screaming internally ask me ASK ME! And when she simply could not solve it, she would only turn to Song Ming for guidance but never him.
Now Song Ming might have topped in English, but his grasp on Math and Chemistry was just average. Cheng Zheng would eavesdrop agonizingly as Song Ming tried to guide Yun Jin but all he would make out of it was a bunch of longwinded nonsense that got Yun Jin nowhere. Funnily enough, both Yun Jin and Song Ming remained calm even though their discussions never made Yun Jin any wiser. It was Cheng Zheng, the witness to the proceedings, who was all agitated.
Finally, one day, he couldn’t stand seeing Su Yun Jin pondering over another classic ten-year-series algebra sum. When he passed her desk during break time, he tossed a sheet of paper detailing the steps to solving it as well as the thought process on her desk before making a quick escape. When he returned to his seat however, he found her approaching him holding the same piece of paper up.
Before she could speak, he interjected quickly with a beetroot face, “Don’t overthink this. I just can’t endure stupidity.”
Yun Jin replied casually “You’re the one overthinking things. I just want to clarify what you wrote.”
“Puahaha!” The pair turned in the direction of the chuckle. It was Song Ming who was laughing. When he made eye-contact with them however, he gestured for them to please continue before immersing himself in his study material once again.
Cheng Zheng ignored him and took the paper from Yun Jin’s hold. “Which word can’t you make out? Sigh, you just won’t admit you’re stupid. Oh this word is…”
In the following days, the students sitting in their vicinity were astounded to observe that Su Yun Jin’s and Cheng Zheng’s interactions had increased and improved. Whenever she was stumped in English, she would turn to Song Ming for help. When she was baffled by any of the other subjects, she would invariably turn to Cheng Zheng with a low voice.
Although Cheng Zheng always looked as though he was irritated by her requests, he was always meticulous in his explanations. He had no patience however. Should Yun Jin remain clueless or unable to follow his explanations, he would become testy. In such moments, Su Yun Jin would not argue or converse with him any further and would simply turn her back on him, allowing him to continue stewing in his impatience. But before a half-hour was up, Cheng Zheng would poke Yun Jin in her back and initiate conversation with a “Actually, I wasn’t done explaining just now, come I’ll continue……”
Cheng Zheng’s style of tutoring may have been rough around the edges but no one could deny that his approach to questions were always the simplest and most straightforward. Under his frequent painstaking guidance, Yun Jin had made big strides in her work. Of course, she was still nowhere close to being one of the topscorers in class, but at least she was closer to the passing mark in Math than before.
Year three was an agonizing period of non-stop mugging. As long as the National College Entrance Examinations were not over, the students dared not slacken. After Friday’s afternoon class, their teacher would sometimes allow them to unwind on the sporting field. Cheng Zheng and several batchmates would then play friendlies in the soccer court. After he had established a semblance of friendship with Su Yun Jin, Cheng Zheng would often casually invite her to watch a match.
“We are playing a friendly this afternoon. If you have nothing to do you can come watch?”
“I’m going back to the hostel to wash my hair.”
“You can wash your hair anytime! Well will you come or not? … All the other girls in class will be there.”
Cheng Zheng’s invitation was sincere, but Yun Jin was unfortunately not reciprocative, “I know absolutely nothing about soccer, so it’s pointless for me to go.”
“If you know nothing, you can always learn! Can’t you just be interested in sports one bit? Always staying cooped up studying, no wonder you’re such a bore!” Cheng Zheng raised his voice.
Yun Jin looked at him, “Who says I’m not interested in sports? I play Go.” (*Go, also known as 围棋 wéiqí, is a boardgame comprising of black and white pieces.)
Cheng Zheng was furious and said angrily, “Su Yun Jin! If you don’t come today, I’ll really not let you off!” Although he had issued a thinly veiled threat, the truth was, Cheng Zheng had no idea what he would do if Su Yun Jin stood him up once again. He was really at her mercy.
It was dinnertime and Yun Jin sat in her dorm room eating the usual bland takeaway from the canteen. There were significantly fewer people in the dorm today. It was only she and Mo Yu Hua who was listening to an English audio tape while eating. Neither of them talked and the faint strains of excitement from the soccer court a distance away would stream in occasionally.
“You really don’t intend to go?”
“Huh?” Yun Jin stared doubtfully at Mo Yu Hua who was still plugged in to her audio tape. She couldn’t be certain that the statement was directed at her.
Mo Yu Hua plucked out her earphones and asked casually “Have you finished eating? Let’s go take a look.”
Yun Jin was very surprised because Mo Yu Hua was just like her and had never displayed interest in such activities.
“I’m really not interested.” Yun Jin bent her head and started playing with the remnants of her food.
“Let’s go. Just take it as you’re accompanying me.” Mo Yu Hua took the bowl from Yun Jin’s hold and placed it on a nearby table. She then grabbed Yun Jin’s wrist and led her out of the hostel.
Yun Jin followed Mo Yu Hua passively to the crowded arena with a look of helplessness. Mo Yu Hua dragged her to an advantageous viewing spot. With a myopia of 200 degrees, Yun Jin had to squint. She could just make out the two squads clad in red and white jerseys running tirelessly across the field. There was truly no lack of girls among the spectators. Whether they were focussed on the game or the athletes was anyone’s guess.
She found him; he was in the white team. Yun Jin was confused that she was able to identify his physique so readily. But then again, it was no great feat even if the boys were all over the place. He was tall and lean and his tanned skin was in stark contrast to the ivory jersey and he emanated vigour. Yun Jin was really clueless about soccer but she had to admit that Cheng Zheng was mesmerizing when he played.
“On this field, how many girls are really interested in soccer? They’re merely using it as an excuse to blatantly ogle and cheer for him.” Mo Yu Hua calmly remarked as she gazed at the pitch.
Yun Jin waited for her to resume talking but realised that the speaker was not even looking at her but watching a certain athlete attentively. Yun Jin followed her line of vision curiously… It’s him? She was shocked! There was nothing more surprising than this revelation.
Yun Jin stole another glance at Mo Yu Hua whose plain features expressed a usual stiffness. Perhaps she could sense it; Mo Yu Hua cocked her head and looked at Yun Jin as though she had caught her in the act “Seeing as I’m not interested in your popular man, you must be relieved.”
Yun Jin felt her face turn warm, “He’s most certainly not mine.”
“I didn’t even specify who “he” is. You don’t really dislike Cheng Zheng do you?” Mo Yu Hua teased but she followed it up with self-mockery. “Puppy love is inevitable. Everyone might be stifled by the mountain of study material but sometimes, thoughts still wander…” She paused before adding “It’s ridiculous isn’t it? Even you can see that we’re incompatible.”
“I wasn’t thinking that …” Yun Jin was quick to deny.
“It doesn’t matter if you think that or not. I sure don’t want to delude myself into thinking there is a possibility between us.” Mo Yu Hua continued to stare after the white-clad boy. It was as if the vocal crowd surrounding them had melted away into oblivion and in that vast space, only she and the boy existed. Yun Jin noticed for the first time what Mo Yu Hua’s plain appearance was exceptionally radiant.
Yun Jin stared at the field in a daze. After Mo Yu Hua’s confession, she had announced that she hadn’t finished listening to her audio tape and had abandoned Yun Jin on the field.
Yun Jin still hadn’t recovered from the shock of her revelation. While she interacted with Mo Yu Hua fairly more often than with others, they were both introverts. They didn’t have a particularly close friendship what more a heart-to-heart chat like they just had. She couldn’t understand why Mo Yu Hua would reveal a girl’s closely guarded secret so readily to her. Maybe, Yu Hua had wanted validation of the possibility of such a romance. Yun Jin never thought a studious girl like Mo Yu Hua was struggling with affairs of the heart underneath that cool exterior.
She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she paid no attention to the excitement on the field. When she finally came to, most of the spectators were starting to leave. The match had ended.
She followed the crowd but had yet to pass the gates when a person drenched in perspiration caught up with her and jostled for position next to her.
“Why are you here? I thought someone wasn’t interested?” Cheng Zheng purposely heckled her although he wore a huge satisfied grin. Yun Jin took a step back, unwilling to let his drops of perspiration fall onto her. She replied dully “The field doesn’t belong to you. Anyone can come as they please.”
“When did you arrive? How come I didn’t see you just now?”
“But you must admit that was a good goal right?” Cheng Zheng ignored Yun Jin’s non-reply and asked hopefully.
“What goal?” Yun Jin had no idea what he was talking about.
Cheng Zheng’s good mood evaporated in an instant. It was as if he was a little child awaiting praise only to meet the huge wet-blanket that was Yun Jin. In fact, he realised her gaze wasn’t even directed at him but at someone behind him.
Yun Jin studied Zhou Zi Yi who was standing not far behind Cheng Zheng. She found it hard to pair up this handsome and carefree spirit with the likes of Mo Yu Hua. She could almost comprehend Mo Yu Hua’s despondence earlier when she had looked at him. Naturally, she didn’t sense Cheng Zheng’s thunderstruck expression after he discovered the object of her attention.
Cheng Zheng was stupefied. When he thought that she had finally willingly came to watch him play, that moment of jubilation was even sweeter than when he had scored a goal. But he realised that he was never her male lead from start to end.
“Hey, let go!” Yun Jin was caught by surprise when Cheng Zheng dragged her off. There were still quite a few people milling about and they were mostly their batchmates. When Cheng Zheng had beelined for her to engage her in conversation, people had already taken note and were watching in anticipation and now with this entanglement, even more eyes were looking their way.
Yun Jin blushed a bright beetroot and used all her strength to wriggle out of Cheng Zheng’s grasp but she was no match for him. She didn’t dare cause further commotion for fear of garnering more unwanted attention and thus whispered fiercely “Cheng Zheng are you nuts? People are looking!”
Cheng Zheng tossed her arm angrily. “You’re not afraid of people looking. You’re just scared he would see aren’t you!”
Yun Jin knew this could easily be misinterpreted as a lovers’ spat and was so abashed she wanted to worm her way into the ground. She wanted to chide him but in her emotional state, was unable to form a coherent comeback. She didn’t want this to drag out any longer and wanted to leave immediately. Stat. Right away. She did not realise that her silence and avoidance of his question only hurt Cheng Zheng even more.
Before she could flee, he could not hold it in any longer and yelled “It’s no use liking him! As though anyone would ever fall for you.”
Yun Jin stopped dead in her tracks before upping her speed without a backwards glance.
She had not looked back but Cheng Zheng knew his words had struck a chord. She affected him so greatly, how could he just let her waltz away intact? But he was unable to feel joy over his tooth-for-tooth actions. In the deepest trenches of his heart, a small voice needled him How am I incomparable to him?
Zhou Zi Yi finally caught up to Cheng Zheng and slung his arm around him as was his usual habit. However, Cheng Zheng shrugged off his arm angrily. Zi Yi rubbed his nose in confusion. Had he offended Cheng Zheng?