The duties of research student were not a lot but it definitely could not be taken lightly. Other than attending classes, looked up research articles, madly supplementing insufficient documents related to one’s specialization field in English, assisting the seniors of the research group in conducting experiments, and on top of everything, they were expected to run some free errands and odd jobs for the lecturer.
Since the beginning of the term, Bo Ziren had already gotten used to this hectic lifestyle, however, recently things were different. Whether in her busy or free time, there was always a nagging and constant emptiness that she could not seem to fill.
She would be easily distracted by some English words, and forgot what she was doing from time to time, and she even deviated from the running track in the playground when she was jogging as her thoughts drifted far, far away. In the research laboratory, in a trance, she briefly forgot the next step after squeezing a drop of melanin into the glass slide.
She was clear as to why she had been behaving this way. Nonetheless, there was no remedy for it. Although his number was saved in her mobile phone, she still could not find an appropriate and reasonable excuse to disturb him yet. Their meeting had always been by chance, and she does not think she belonged to his ‘real’ world.
Perhaps it would just be a momentary lapse. So she tried her best on gaining back some reason and sanity, unwilling to be manipulated by her own emotions.
It was….. easier said than done. Ultimately, he had affected her greatly, thus a certain person’s counter to the library increased significantly; in fact, every available seconds would be spent away inside the library; killing time by reading the novel of Bernard Malamud’s creation, recommended by him.
Looking up, Bo Ziren was unsure when did a male student sat in the seat across from her.
“I did not recognize wrong, right? The Shore Wood Elementary School’s Student Committee member.” There was a certainty in his voice, “I was in the third class next to yours, I also happened to have asked for your tutelage in studies at that time.”
Bo Ziren was totally confused, and very much wanted to say that he had recognized the wrong person. Unfortunately, the person had mentioned her name and previous school correctly.
“Looks like you don’t remember me.” He confidently declared his name, “Zhou Biran, do you recall?”
“No, I don’t.” honest words rolled off her tongue.
“Elementary school friends, it’s normal you can’t remember.” He looked straight into her eyes and patiently explained, “On the first day of school, in the assembly hall, when they were calling for attendance, I heard your name and thought it sounds familiar. I thought to myself, could it be you, and then I caught glimpses of you around the campus so I knew you’re the same person.”
Bo Ziren did not react in any way. To tell the truth, she did not feel there were any good old memories to talk about with this ambiguous elementary alumnus. And there was the fact that she was not good in conversing; she simply does not have the ability to put on a facade, acting warm and reminisce about the old times with a stranger in her opinion.
Her taciturn response made Zhou Biran feel a little put off till he vaguely remembered that she did not like to speak much even during elementary school, but she would still say a few words when the occasion calls for it. Out of his expectation, even after a passage of dozen years, she still doesn’t talk much and had no impression of him, no enthusiasm towards him even after he had taken the initiative of talking to her.
Looked like he was asking for it himself to be ignored. He was someone with a lot of pride in himself, hence thinking of this, he immediately stood up, eyes casted low as they swept a final glance across her face, then he turned around and left without so much as another word.
No more than a few steps away, a female student acted like they met by coincidence, “Zhou Biran, just now were you trying to pick up a pretty girl?”
Zhou Biran did not bother to look at her, “Must I be picking up a girl every time I talk with the opposite gender? It seems the hole in your brain is getting worse.”
The female student apologized at once, her face full of grievance as if Zhou Boran wronged her somehow.
On the way back to the campus building, Bo Ziren managed to recall some blurry details about Zhou Biran.
There had been a male student that came to her asking about homework when she was in elementary school. He was a transfer student and used to study in a smaller school, so a lot of the study contents were different and he needed to make up for a lot, however, he was very impatient. As for why he had looked for her, she could not seem to remember. The most vivid memory of him was that he taught her how to vault in Physical Education Class, allowing her to pass the test. In exchange, she agreed to help him with his homework.
Every time when a classmate asked him why was he not named ‘Ouran’ which means ‘coincidence’, he would readily answer coldly, “Don’t you read books? It is written in the books; in this world, there is no coincidence, only the inevitable [Biran].”
He also had a younger sister that was attending Grade One at that time, who had come running to her, innocently inquiring what was her relationship with Zhou Biran.
In her flashes of memories, that was the pretty much the gist of the story.
For Bo Ziren, the memory capacity in her brain was very limited –– limited to remembering things that were worth remembering, and would directly filter out unnecessary events; especially, those related to old classmates, they were of no importance to her. She did not possess the habit of flipping through past yearbooks, so she was not to be blamed for not realizing who Zhou Biran is on the spot. But when the name seeped into her memory banks, she could determine there was such a person’s existence, and gradually recalled clues related to him, after all, she had very good memory.
Two days later, in the middle of a class, Zhu Mingwen quietly asked Bo Ziren, “You know Zhou Biran? Someone saw the two of you talking.”
Bo Ziren admitted honestly, “En, know.”
“The two of you are friends?”
“Not familiar at the moment.” This was also an honest truth.
“He can be considered as the controversial character in our batch, he came in with a recommendation. He was at the provincial University before this, but he had an article published in the province’s society journal. His mentor at that time is his current lecturer. In my opinion, his family had planned and arranged everything for him.”
Bo Ziren became thoughtful when she heard the term ‘controversial character’.
Without needing for her to ask, Zhu Mingwen willingly continued, “Some people really have a good life. Obviously his result is average, his strength is also mediocre, yet he can get his hands on many resources. It could be said, he has bright prospects from the moment he was born.”
“I think, luck is actually a part of strength. However, no result can be attributed to pure luck.”
Astutely shut her mouth, Zhu Mingwen then stared at her for a long time before nodding, “What you’ve said is right. In short, I’m insanely jealous of these type of people’s good background.”
Letting out an exasperated sigh, she resumed her talk with Bo Ziren, “I realized just now, sometimes, the way you talk is quite philosophical.”
“Philosophical?” Bo Ziren was surprised, and naturally, her thoughts drifted towards a certain lecturer’s face teaching Philosophy.
Quite some time had passed since their last meeting. The passage of time really did flow like water, she could clearly feel this point now while busy attending classes.
The weather suddenly took a turn and became cold. Eventually, Bo Ziren went home on Saturday to take some clothes, and she coincidentally bumped into the day little fellow Mu Zibei needed to go to the hospital for a checkup and new prescription. The little fellow was unwilling to get into his father’s car, even going so far as to act spoiled, insisting on going with his jiejie instead.
Liu Xinyu strongly objected, “Don’t make a fuss, it’s so cold outside today, let your father send you in his car.”
“No, Papa’s body stinks! He is not allowed to be close to Doctor Cheng.”
Uncle Mu awkwardly scratched the back of his head, and honestly admitted his mistake, “I just took a smoke just now, but I’ve already gurgled.”
Mu Zidong was sitting on the sofa with a football in his hands, clamoring, “Papa don’t go! You promised to play football with me!”
Liu Xinyu was rendered powerless by her two precious babies and relented in the end. She allowed Mu Zibei to got to the hospital being accompanied by Bo Ziren.
In the car on the way to the hospital, Mu Zibei felt hot and was about to take action on discarding the scarf from around his neck, but was effectively stopped by Bo Ziren, “Not allowed to remove the scarf, it’s very cold today.”
Struggling in vain, he kept the scarf on, just minutes after that, he had another request, “I’m thirty, I want to drink water now.”
Bo Ziren opened her bag, took out a thermos and fed him some water.
“Ei?” the sharp-eyed Mu Zibei: “I want to eat the chocolate inside your bag.”
Bo Ziren unwrapped the chocolate and peeled off a corner for him.
Mu Zibei sucked on the chocolate, very quickly his brows wrinkled in dissatisfaction, “Gua Ziren, your chocolate is very bitter.”
“Because it wasn’t suitable for kids.”
“Then who was it for? Who likes to eat chocolate that tastes like bitter Chinese medicine?”
Bo Ziren kept mum, choosing not tell him.
Mu Zibei stuck out his now blackish tongue as if he wanted to vomit.
Till he came in front of Doctor Cheng, Mu Zibei once again switched on to his exemplary good kid mode –– answering all and every question, also obeying every word of Doctor Cheng’s.
“We’re entering the winter season, at these times, asthma attacks happen more frequent, you must pay attention to keep your body warm, exercise some more, and pay extra attention to your diet. Cannot eat sour and spicy food, understand?” Doctor Cheng reminded meticulously in her gentle voice.
Mu Zibei nodded and kept on nodding, small hands propping his little round head as he watched Doctor Cheng scribbled down something on the prescription as if he knew what was being written, but reality was far from ideal, “Doctor Cheng, what medicine is this?”
“Coltsfoot flower, for suppressing cough.”
“Do you have Bo Ziren?”
Doctor Cheng laughed, “You also know Bo Ziren?”
“I’m very familiar with it, my jiejie’s name is Bo Ziren, ah.”
“Really, your surname is Bo?” Doctor Cheng smiled and looked at Bo Ziren.
“En,” Bo Ziren acknowledged it.
“Then, you are Mu Zibei’s cousin sister?”
“No,” Mu Zibei shook his hand, and explained in detail, “Jiejie and I have the same mother, but different fathers.”
Hearing this Doctor Cheng raised an eyebrow, casually let out a ‘so, it’s like that’.
Because it was a Saturday afternoon, there were not many patients around, and no patient was in queue after Mu Zibei, thus Doctor Cheng spent some time chatting with him.
Mu Zibei absolutely would not miss such a great opportunity, and started to list out his good performance; mathematics test, full marks; the telescope he made in Living Skills Class was nominated the best; his writing on the blackboard journal received the number one prize; even exposing information about his ‘lifestyle’.
“Last year, Papa brought me and gege to a small town and made a lot of new little friends. They are very poor, and cannot afford to buy stationeries. When I came back, I sent some books and pencils to them, and recently we also sent some winter clothes as it is getting colder.”
“You are very kind.” Doctor Cheng praised, “I will cheer you on, since you started something, then you must do it well.”
“Of course, Papa said one must have persistence in doing charity. Since I’ve started it, I definitely will follow through.”
“Awesome, I really admire you.” Doctor Cheng patted his little shoulder, treating him like a little man.
“It’s not much.” Mu Zibei put out a modest front, “This is something I should do.”
Sitting on the side, Bo Ziren suddenly thought of something; if Doctor Cheng had seen the scene of Mu Zibei throwing a stone at her family member, she wondered what she would have thought of him then.
While waiting for the dispensary to pick out the medicine, Bo Ziren head’s was slightly bowed down, reading a book, whereas Mu Zibei was swinging his legs in boredom while looking around impatiently.
Suddenly, Mu Zibei jumped out of his seat: “Ah, there’s my dage!”
By the time Bo Ziren lifted her head, Mu Zibei had already run some distance away that she quickly rushed out to follow him.
Getting closer to the parking fee machine, Bo Ziren finally saw the person Mu Zibei was running to. Within that few meters distance, his side facial contours were extremely clear underneath the light. Just like a camera panning for a close-up, every single strand of eyelash could be seen vividly.
Cheng Jingpo looked down and was greeted with the scene of Mu Zibei that had been pretending for some time, “Are you extremely cold? Hugging my leg for so long.”
Refused to release his leg, Mu Zibei’s little round head tilted down as if proclaiming, ‘I want to treat you to a meal, if you don’t agree, I won’t let go.’
When Bo Ziren was approaching near, his head raised up, showing a wry helplessness in them. When he saw her coming over, there was no surprise in his eyes, like it was already within his expectation.
“If this is because of last time’s incident, there is no need to treat me for a meal. Your jiejie already had apologized on your behalf.” He was gazing at her as he said this.
Closely observing Bo Ziren with suspicion while his little hands did not show any signs of letting go, Mu Zibei asked, “True or not? You already treated him to a meal.”
Bo Ziren’s brain turned one hundred and eighty degrees in a matter of seconds, shaking her head, she confessed, “No.”
“That’s not sincere.” Mu Zibei put his entire weight onto Cheng Jingpo’s leg, no different than someone who had found their own treasure land, acting spoiled, “Papa said to me, feelings are nurtured through meals.”
“First, let me settle the parking fees.” Cheng Jingpo indicated it would be his turn soon.
Feeling somewhat reluctant to let go, Mu Zibei kept guard vigilantly next to him. The moment Cheng Jingpo finished his payment, the little fellow lunged towards his leg. Holding onto it tightly, the little fellow had a contented expression on his face.
In a public place, a roundish little kid, pestering a tall single man, this picture was a little too peculiar.
Seconds ticked by, gradually passing the mark of minutes, when Mu Zibei suddenly faced Cheng Jingpo with a pleading face, “I need to pee pee, if you don’t promise me, then I’ll have to pee here. Really, I won’t lie to you.”
Bo Ziren hurriedly went up to pull him away, but who knew the little one was far stronger than she had expected, she could only say to Cheng Jingpo, “He’s very persistent, if you don’t promise him today, then you must avoid him carefully in the future, otherwise, the same thing will happen again.”
Cheng Jingpo pondered quietly, perhaps some unimaginable scene flashed across his mind that made him compromised in the end; patting Mu Zibei’s shoulder gently, “Okay, what are you going to treat me with?”
“I’ll bring you to a place, there are huge pots there. You can smell delicious fragrance when you enter the shop, you can eat whatever you want. They have skewers too. Unlimited supply, you can even sprinkle many different spices on them, more luxurious than the sumptuous Manchu Han full course feast. You’ll even drool dreaming of it, trust me! Do you know what the most fantastic thing in this world is?”
Cheng Jingpo pretended to think it over seriously, “I’m guessing what you said to be the world’s supreme is their Malatang, right?”
“Malatang is not allowed.” Bo Ziren stated calmly, “Did you forget what the doctor said? You cannot eat spicy and sour food.”
Mu Zibei’s face pulled down with disappointment, “I nearly forgot, Doctor Cheng said I’m not allowed to eat spicy food, what to do?”
Cheng Jingpo smiled coolly, “If you don’t mind, I can recommend a place to you.”
 Malatang is a hot and spicy soup based originally used as hotpot soup; it has gone through quite an evolution in the past 15 years or so.
Translator : Woodear
Editor : ChocolateMorn
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