Little Love Song – Chapter 16
Jiang Cheng and Shao Baihan did not really know each other well, they had only ever played a game of basketball together.
Shao Baihan had left Yan City in Year 2 so Liu Xiaomeng, too, had barely interacted with him before.
Now that their table of three had this sudden addition of Shao Baihan, everyone felt awkward and this kept their chatter to a minimum, so lunch was quickly finished.
When they were paying the bill, Shao Baihan discreetly coughed, before saying,“Include the earlier set in the bill.”
The attendant was confused for a moment, before respectfully smiling,“It’s not necessary sir, it is our fault that the plate shattered. It was a good thing that you did not get hurt, and we really are very sorry about that.”
However, Shao Baihan took out a credit card and held it out, saying firmly, “Include it in the bill.”
The attendant tried to politely decline, but after a few attempts, Shao Baihan called directly for the manager, and paid the price for two sets of steak.
The restaurant manager had probably never met such an “honest” customer before. In the business of eateries, it was a normal thing for customers to accidentally break cutlery or dishes, and they never forced them to pay any compensation. No one would have even anticipated this young man standing firm in his decision to pay extra to cover the damages.
The manager personally ushered out Ning Er and the others, not forgetting to send a look of unending respect in Shao Baihan’s way.
Who would have guessed there were still such honest people in the world?!
As this all unfolded around him, Ning Er was utterly confused,”………”
And for the supposed troublemaker himself, Shao Baihan still felt full of self-reproach.
The exhibition would only admit attendees at around 2pm, so the four of them still needed to wait another hour or so. Naturally, they began to wander around the shopping complex.
Yan City was located in Jiang Nan, and was one of the Tier-3 cities of Jiangsu Province. It lacked the hustle and bustle of Haicheng, and during the summer holidays, it was normal to see parents bringing their children over to the shopping complex’s Arcade Center.
T/N: China’s cities are often categorised according to tiers, with first-tier being the highest, originating mainly from property value. Read more here
From a very young age, Ning Er had been under strict parental supervision, so he rarely had the chance to go out and play. Jiang Chen’s childhood could not be more different, and he was a regular at all the large shopping complexes in the centre of Yan City.
“Ning Er, remember when we were in middle school, I think it was 11th Grade… Do you still remember that we actually met before at the Golden Eagle?”
Jiang Chen walked over and stopped in front of a store, pointing at it as he said,“Noh, it was here. It was just before the new year, and my mum had brought me over here to buy new clothes. Your mum had brought you here to buy new clothes, too. You have no idea what I went through because of you!”
T/N: Noh = sound
Ning Er had no recollection of this, and he asked,“What did I do?”
The lanky Jiang Chen looked aggrieved as he complained,“My mother thought that your new year cotton-padded jacket looked lovely, and she wanted to buy me one like that. We ended up trying so many different ones…and she kept saying that I looked ugly. She kept praising you while putting me down!”
Liu Xiaomeng snickered,“Pfft.”
Ning Er was speechless.
Jiang Chen was tall and buff, he was not very good-looking, but he was still decent. His current faux pitiful appearance was quite a contrast to his stature, which made Liu Xiaomeng guffaw.
How could Ning Er remember what happened two years ago, for all he knew this was probably made up by Jiang Chen, making up something to entertain her.
Ning Er just let him ramble on, his inner thoughts being, Shao Baihan had always been other people’s kid, who would have thought that he would one day have the chance to be that kid in someone else’s mind.
Thinking of this, he snuck a glance at Shao Baihan.
What he saw made him pause. Shao Baihan was standing in front of a children’s apparel shop and was looking at one of the plastic child mannequins that had male clothing on.
Jiang Chen and Liu Xiaomeng continued to chat as they walked further ahead, and Ning Er, not wanting to leave him behind, called out to him saying, “What are you looking at? Hurry up!”
Shao Baihan’s gaze was locked on that small piece of light-blue clothing, and continuing to look at it, he then turned to look at Ning Er,“Isn’t it similar?”
Ning Er had no idea what he meant and asked,“Similar to what?”
It was only then that Ning Er realised that the child mannequin was wearing a jacket, and it really was quite similar to the one he was wearing today.
Ning Er did not know why Shao Baihan was being so attentive toward his clothing, but he pressed,“We’re going to the art exhibition, if you aren’t going to move, then, we might be late, plus don’t forget you need to buy your ticket there.”
Shao Baihan answered,“I remember in Year 1, you once had a white down jacket, the one that was really round.”
Ning Er stopped to think for a while, and finally remembered the jacket he was talking about, but when he did the smile on his face disappeared, as he said under his breath,“Why do you still remember that? That jacket was something my mother bought me for the new year. It was one size too big and whenever I wore it, I looked like a pig, puffy and round.”
Every year just before they celebrated the new year, the residents of Yan City would take to the streets to buy their children new outfits. For the rich, this was not a habit as they were used to buying clothes at any random time in the year. However, for Ning Er, Jiang Chen and other similar kids, they always looked forward to these New Year outfits, because this was the only time in the entire year, where they would be able to go out with the sole purpose of buying the best clothes.
To be fair, the outfit covered everything from top to toe, with even the shoes included, so, how could a child not be excited?
Now that he had begun high school, Ning Er had grown up since his childhood, and was no longer as excited about it as he was before. Still, he had memories from when he was younger, when school reopened after every winter holiday, how all the students would proudly wear their new year outfits to school.
The boys were still somewhat normal, but the girls all had beautiful outfits, each one surpassing the next.
Shao Baihan had been referring to one of the outfits Ning Er had worn during the winter holidays of Year 1. That jacket had looked really nice on the hanger, but when he wore it, he transformed into a ball! Ning Er’s entire year’s worth of waiting for his new year outfit had culminated in looking like a ball, and this really put a downer on him.
Shao Baihan’s grandmother had been quite old, so she had not gone out to get Shao Baihan a New Year outfit, but his parents would regularly post him things from Haicheng, including new clothes.
That winter, Ning Er had looked like a small round ball of white, while Shao Baihan had been wearing a high-end brand’s camel-colored jacket. It had even been designed according to his size, so it was well-fitting and made him look handsome.
Ning Er looked at himself then at the other, and came to the conclusion that his New Year outfit was not good-looking enough. His only relief came from the thought that Shao Baihan’s New Year outfit was really thin, so it must have been freezing for him. Ning Er’s thick down jacket kept him warm all the time.
“How was that pig-like? You looked more like a penguin!”
Ning Er’s train of thought was interrupted and he stuttered,“Ah? A penguin?”
Shao Baihan took out his mobile, and found a video clip of a young penguin walking. His face had a slight blush to it, but his voice was calm as he asked,“Don’t you think it looks like this little penguin?” So cute!
On the screen of the mobile, an utterly round little penguin was shuffling forward, swaying left and right as it did so.
“Smack”, suddenly, it fell to the ground and the little penguin piteously flailed its tiny flippers.The father penguin rushed over to comfort him, and after quite some time he finally managed to get the little penguin back on its feet and the two of them waddled off.
Ning Er had nothing to say to this.
So, this was how silly he was!!!
Ning Er no longer wanted to talk to Shao Baihan, and quickly raced ahead to catch up with Jiang Chen and Liu Xiaomeng.
The four of them made their way to the Center of the exhibition to look at some artwork.
Perhaps it was because of the expensive tickets, or maybe it was because the artist was still unknown, there were very few people in the viewing area. Across the entire location, there were probably only a handful of viewers.
It soon became obvious that Jiang Chen had done his homework, as he began to walk about with Liu Xiaomeng, most confidently commenting on various things.
He had no intention of being a lightbulb, so Ning Er followed behind both of them, looking around on his own. Alas, he could not make heads or tails out of all these abstract artworks.
Among the few viewers there, Shao Baihan was hard to miss as he stood there with both his hands in his pockets. He looked extremely at ease, and was definitely not interested in what was happening upfront, but kept his gaze on Ning Er. The more he looked, the weirder it seemed!
There was a distance of about two to three feet between Ning Er and the duo, and he made no move to go and talk to Liu Xiaomeng. Instead, the one who kept trying to catch Liu Xiaomeng’s attention was that fellow Jiang Chen, it really was quite obvious how he felt.
Shao Baihan’s heart seemed to flutter as he confirmed his gut feelings about the odd atmosphere.
After rounding a corner, he swiftly crept up to Ning Er and whispered to him,“Don’t you want to go over to them and chat?”
Reacting instinctively, Ning Er replied,“Why would I?”
A thought flashed through Shao Baihan’s mind and he kept a straight face, while continuing to stare at Ning Er. He seemed to be waiting for the latter’s expression to change as he asked,“That friend of yours…He likes Liu Xiaomeng, doesn’t he?”
Ning Er’s footsteps screeched to a halt.
The truth was, Jiang Chen was too obvious about how much he liked Liu Xiaomeng, and she had probably already noticed that by now, so acknowledging this would not hurt.
However, it was odd that Shao Baihan seemed really interested in this…..
With that thought in mind, Ning Er’s reply seemed quite pointed as he said,“That’s right, Jiang Chen likes Liu Xiaomeng! He’s also the one who bought the tickets to today’s exhibition. He and Liu Xiaomeng weren’t acquainted with each other, that’s why he asked me to invite her along.” Pausing here, Ning Er looked up at Shao Baihan as he emphasized,“Jiang Chen really put in effort for today, he made lots of preparation.” So, no matter how much Liu Xiaomeng might like you, Jiang Chen’s still not out of the race yet, who knows what might happen, you might even end up surrendering in the face of his perseverance!
Shao Baihan had not noticed the hidden meaning in Ning Er’s words, all his attention had been drawn to another statement,“Did you just say that Jiang Chen bought all the tickets?”
Ning Er nodded fervently,“That’s right.”
Shao Baihan hid the pleasant surprise in his eyes as he coughed twice,“So, the reason why you’re here is to help Jiang Chen chase after Liu Xiaomeng?”
Ning Er felt like something was off, but he nodded anyway.
Shao Baihan instantly felt relieved.
Looking at Jiang Chen who was still nearby, he suddenly felt this guy was so much more pleasing to the eye! Plus, he had such good taste, he liked Liu Xiaomeng and put so much effort into pursuing her. What a great guy! Hurry up and get her, it would be a waste if Liu Xiaomeng missed out on such a great guy.
At the same time, Jiang Chen had mentioned something to Liu Xiaomeng, causing her to turn back and ask,“Ning Er, Shao Baihan, why aren’t the two of you looking at the artwork?”
Ning Er had no intention of going over and becoming a lightbulb, but, since Liu Xiaomeng had already called out to him, he felt bad about ignoring her.
Just as Ning Er moved to walk over to them, a certain somebody grabbed his wrist and he looked back in surprise.
Shao Baihan arched an eyebrow at him,“Do you want to leave?”
Ning Er was dazed as he asked,“But… Don’t you want to stay with her..…with them and look at some art?”
Shao Baihan answered matter-of-factly,“It’s not like I understand this type of abstract art, what use would it be for me to look at it?”
Ning Er gazed blankly at him,“You’re… You’re giving up the fight?”
“Er tui? What?”
Ning Er shook his head before asking,“How do we leave?” He, too, had no desire to become a lightbulb.
“Relax, I’ve got it covered.”
Liu Xiaomeng and Jiang Chen were busy admiring the piece of art consisting of seven or eight random strokes, when they suddenly heard Shao Baihan’s agitated voice from behind them,“Xiao Er, what’s wrong?”
The two of them immediately looked behind them.
Ning Er had yet to realise the sudden turn of events when a strong arm swept his feet up and Shao Baihan was soon carrying him in his arms. Instinctively he looked up to ask him what was happening, but Shao Baihan quickly moved to grasp the back of his head. Firmly pushing his head further into his embrace.
Ning Er froze in his arms.
Jiang Chen had walked over by now, and asked,“What just happened?”
Without missing a beat Shao Baihan replied,“Xiao Er had always had problems with his stomach, it might be feeling ill, so I think I’ll take him to the hospital to have a look.”
Liu Xiaomeng was worried as she added,“Why did this happen, wasn’t everything fine just now? Let’s hurry and quickly get to the hospital.”
“There’s no need, I can send him there on my own.” Shao Baihan had one arm hooked under Ning Er’s knees and the other around his torso. As he talked he used one of his hands to pinch Ning Er around the waist while asking,“Isn’t that right, Xiao Er?”
In that instant, Ning Er’s entire body felt numb as a weird tingly feeling began to radiate outward from his waist. He disguised his voice, adopting a weak whisper as he answered,“Mmm… That’s right. I’m alright, if I take some medicine, I’ll feel better.”
Liu Xiaomeng looked like she wanted to say something, but Shao Baihan quickly sent Jiang Chen a look.
Jiang Chen instantly understood and he quickly turned to explain this to Liu Xiaomeng.“Ah! That’s right! I also know about this stomach problem Ning Er has, and it isn’t a huge issue.”
Shao Baihan’s reply came quick as he continued to press,“I’ll just send him to the hospital, you guys take your time and enjoy the rest of the art.”
And thus, with Ning Er in his arms, Shao Baihan strode out of the exhibition area.
Ning Er had rarely lied before, and now in the span of just one day, he had told so many untruths that he felt immense shame. Right this moment, he was still in Shao Baihan’s embrace, his face was burning with embarrassment as his “stomach problem” forced him to hide his face in Shao Baihan’s chest. He did not dare to look up at the others.
The chest felt broad yet warm, and slowly Ning Er began to relax. Shao Baihan still had one hand on his waist, and his body heat gradually began to pass through his thin shirt as it radiated into his body. Slowly, but surely, he began to grow embarrassed. The beating of his heart steadily grew quicker, until all he could hear was the thundering beat of his heart.
Hang on a second…That wasn’t his heart beating?
Confused, Ning Er raised his head, accidentally nudging against a particular area of Shao Baihan’s as he quietly looked at him.
“Shao Baihan, why is your heart beating so fast?”
The very instant Ning Er raised his head, he had no idea of just what body part he had brushed against. A visible shiver ran across Shao Baihan’s body and the body part that Ning Er had brushed against, began to harden. Shao Baihan could feel his ears beginning to burn, yet Ning Er was still acting cluelessly and continued to graze against his chest, the former’s cheeks continually rubbing against one specific spot. The stimulation was enough to make his fingers tremble as heat began to pool in a lower part of Shao Baihan’s body.
It took him a couple of minutes, but Shao Baihan managed to put on a straight face as he said,“I’m using so much energy to pick you up, of course, my heart is gonna be beating fast.”
Ning Er was utterly stupefied by his reply.
Ning Er struggled to move his limbs about, naturally rubbing against that chest area again, and ultimately jumped out of Shao Baihan’s embrace.
Shao Baihan’s eyes had an odd look to them as he stared at Ning Er, especially at the cheek that had been flush against his chest just now. The moment Ning Er turned his gaze on him, he quickly looked away. His face still had that indifferent and relaxed expression, but his ears were redder than ever.
“Alright, let’s go now.” Ning Er walked forward, ignoring Shao Baihan’s evasive behavior.
Shao Baihan said,“Xiao Er, since we’re already outside, shall we go have some fun? I saw there was a video arcade on the third floor, let’s go play there for a while.”
“If you want to play, then, just go play by yourself. I want to go home and finish my homework.”
Ning Er had just stepped one foot forward when his wrist was firmly grasped by someone, making him turn back.
Shao Baihan added,“If you leave now, you might end up meeting them at the exit of the exhibition.”
Ning Er was once again lost for words.
Shao Baihan curled his lips as he smirked,“Remember how we used to play at the arcade when we were younger? I recall you never managed to beat me. Xiao Er, it’s been eight years since I last played, are you up for… another game with me?”
~End of Chapter~