Err I know we have quite a bit of chapters to make up but we’ll do that slowly and gradually HAHA
Minodayz: oh dear.. Our foursome goes back to three ;….
How will our fave friends deal with it.
Su Zi is finding her place in the group and PZG has a sparing partner!
Chapter 11: Estrangement
Once again the classroom had returned to normal, but Su Zi was finding it hard to settle down. Ever since Peng Zige had stomped out of class, she hadn’t been able to complete a single question. All she could do was fiddle with the pen in her hand, continuously gripping it tightly and then releasing her hold.
She turned back a few times but couldn’t find the courage to ask Rong Si what had just happened. If only Peng Zige were there, that would’ve been great; he would have made it so easy to ask.
Although of late she had been spending time with the three of them, eating and hanging out together, those three just had an intangible bond that she simply wasn’t able to be a part of. Just like with today’s incident, the three of them were engaged in some internal struggle and tension, and even though she could sense it, she was all too aware that she was not in their “circle”.
The overall atmosphere was already not that great, and she pounded her pen tip on her white piece of paper. She didn’t understand why she was so despondent, so disappointed that she was not in that inner circle. Still, the tension would not ease.
In the end, Peng Zige didn’t return for the whole remedial class, and somehow even Rong Si had also disappeared from the class too.
So a studious (high achieving), handsome looking student really does come with so many privileges?
With a heavy heart, she returned to the hostel.
Back at the hostel, Li Erqin’s empty bed was illuminated under a haze of orange lights. Li Erqin, however, was nowhere to be seen. Hesitantly Su Zi took a couple steps inside and then heard a clear voice singing from the balcony.
She followed the direction of the sound and peered out. There, sitting on the railing, was a lone Li Erqin, her slender silhouette outlined by the bright, white hues of the moon.
Su Zi recalled a time when she was cleaning with some boys in their class. She had overheard them talking about Li Erqin, and their conversation bespoke an unknown curiosity about Li Erqin.
What kind of a girl was Li Erqin? The kind that doesn’t say much, where even if you talk with her, you still feel like there’s a distance between you and her. A girl who is obviously not the most beautiful, and yet someone who inexplicably and immediately captures your attention. It must be that whiff of otherness. This was what the boys said.
They wanted to get close, and yet were afraid to.
Su Zi suddenly was able to understand a little of how those boys were feeling. She cleared her throat, “Erqin.”
Li Erqin stopped her singing and looked back.
“Why didn’t you attend the evening remedial class? Are you not feeling well?”
“Nope,” Li Erqin hopped down onto the deck, “I’m just not in a good mood.”
“Not in a good mood?” Su Zi reached out to turn on the room lights. “Did something happen?”
Li Erqin returned to her desk and sat down. She opened the assignment book that had been neglected all night. “Nothing much. I’m OK now.” Lowering her head, she read the question and raked her hand through her hair. “Well, I’m done for. I have a feeling I’ll be working through the night.”
Su Zi couldn’t help but laugh. “Serves you right for willfully skipping out of remedial. Speaking of which, did you apply for a leave of absence from the teacher?”
“Yup.” Flipping open her textbook, Li Erqin started summarising the contents and began writing.
“What did you say?”
Li Erqin tilted her head and thought for awhile, “I just told the truth.”
“You weren’t in a good mood?” Su Zi incredulously exclaimed.
“Yup, that’s right.”
(Minodayz : LEQ is just one of a kind! Wish my teacher would accept this excuse! lol)
I’m not in a good mood, and my feelings are all over the place. I’d like to stay at the hostel tonight and sort everything out.
Actually when she had told the teacher this, he had the exact same incredulous expression as Su Zi.
“And the teacher just agreed to that?”
“Took him a while to agree,” Li Erqin replied, not even pausing from working on her assignment.
Su Zi purposefully walked and stood behind Li Erqin for a while before saying, “Hey, Erqin. Rong Si and Peng Zige got into an argument this evening.”
Surprised, Li Erqin looked up immediately. “What happened?”
Su Zi shrugged, “I don’t know. Peng Zige tipped his chair over and just walked out. I didn’t dare ask Rong Si.”
Su Zi noticed that Li Erqin had turned her attention back to her homework book and was looking as if she wasn’t even concerned about the incident. Su Zi couldn’t resist asking, “Aren’t you worried about it?”
Li Erqin remained quiet.
Su Zi was suddenly reminded of Peng Zige’s outburst in class: “Is this what you call being a friend!”
“Maybe, you could send a text to Peng Zige? Or Rong Si?” she pressed on.
Li Erqin stilled her pen and did not make any movement for a period of time.
“Su Zi,” she said, looking at her, “I think I best hurry and finish my homework first.”
Su Zi was absolutely taken aback by her blase response. “Erqin, are you really planning to alienate yourself from those guys?”
Li Erqin didn’t anticipate that she would ask her such a question, but not wanting to lie, she put her pen down and stood up, “Yup.”
“…because it’s a bit troublesome.”
Yet another unexpected answer.
“Su Zi,” Li Erqin sat down again, “Please, can you let me complete my homework first.”
It was that unfathomable barrier again in between their relationship.
Indifferent and alienated.
Su Zi felt as if her heart had been choked by a wad of cotton; she was extremely uncomfortable, but without someone whom she could let off steam, she turned and returned to her own bed.
The roommates returned in dribs and drabs. Su Zi slapped on a smile to greet everyone, and then after showering, she got into bed and laid down.
Why was she (Li Erqin) so troubled? She was so frustrated and bothered that she didn’t want to speak, she didn’t want to do her homework, and all she could think about was estrangement.
She couldn’t understand this at all.
She was aware that her temperament wasn’t like other people’s. In middle school, the gossip and back stabbing comments had been worse. Still, she was able to ignore them and not take them to heart, and was even able to find other interesting things to make her happy.
(Minodayz: poor LEQ, you’re not immune nor impenetrable. It’s hurting!)
Even the last time, when she’d overheard those girls gossiping on the stairwell, she wasn’t that bothered by it. Yet this time, she didn’t know why, but the more she thought about it, the more she felt that it was overwhelmingly unbearable and suffocating. She felt panicky and anxious. Could it be that she had overheard one too many pieces of gossip within a short span of time? This was what Li Erqin concluded.
She closed her physics assignment in agitation and opened up her history book. As she did so, she thought to herself, “Why do I have to do physics when I’m so vexed? I can’t understand it.” She worked on her history assignment for a bit and then put her pen down once again.
Rong Si and Peng Zige got into an argument. Should I send a text and ask about it?
What do I say though….
Li Erqin continued to work on her assignment.
If this was causing trouble to others, then it’d be best to distance oneself.
The next day, Peng Zige and Rong Si waited at the cafeteria, but only for Su Zi, who had arrived to have breakfast. There was not even the shadow of Li Erqin.
A disgruntled Peng Zige could not help looking towards the entrance a couple of times asking, “Su Zi, is Li Erqin really not coming?”
Su Zi broodingly stirred her rice porridge and finally replied, “Yup, she said she wasn’t going to hang out anymore.”
A shocked Peng Zige turned and look at Rong Si.
The latter was all calm and peacefully having his breakfast.
Li Erqin came into class just as the morning self study class bell rang. She had just sat down when Peng Zige jabbed her with his pen, “Erqin.”
Li Erqin looked back.
“Why aren’t you joining us for meals?”
Li Erqin looked at Peng Zige, secretly stole a glance at Rong Si with his headphones on and his nose stuck in his English textbook, and replied, “Because I don’t want to.”
“Don’t want to?” Peng Zige frowned. “Why? Did we do something wrong?”
“You didn’t do anything.” Li Erqin’s face was expressionless. “I guess I’m still the kind that likes to be by myself.”
(Minodayz: awww babygirl, now you’re breaking my heart & PZG too!!!!)
After that parting remark, Li Erqin turned back to her desk, opened up her text and started on her morning reading. No matter how many times Peng Zige silently called out to her, she totally ignored him.
Day by day, the weather started to take a dip, turning colder, and the sycamore trees were slowly stripped of their leaves. Many students had taken to buying hot soy milk and bringing it back to class. They’d look at a couple of English terms and then take a couple sips of soy milk. The classroom was infused with the smell of soy milk and the fragrance of book ink, and occasionally there was the added smell of scallion pancakes and tea leaf eggs.
Rong Si and Peng Zige’s small group once more returned to a threesome. However, this time the one standing next to them was not the one who mystified the other boys and who was despised by the other girls. Li Erqin was no longer in the group.
Aside from class time, no one seemed to catch a glimpse of Li Erqin. If they happened to see her, it was a lone figure walking towards the Broadcasting Club.
During the morning prep class on the day of the midterms, practically everyone in class had brought their breakfast and was eating and cramming. There was even a girl who was still drinking her milk when she ran over to Rong Si to ask him some questions.
Su Zi and Peng Zige were working together to try to suss out what might be on the exam. When the two of them were together, there was bound to be some heated debate. Next to them was the patient Rong Si elaborating on an answer to the red-faced girl, who was secretly admiring the most intelligent male student before bowing her head.
Peng Zige and Su Zi were still in the middle of their discussion when they both paused and subconsciously turned towards Li Erqin’s seat. Incredibly, she was sprawled on her desk fast asleep!
Seeing the concern in Peng Zige’s eyes, Su Zi propped her chin on her hand and said, “If you’re that worried, just go ask her.”
“Hah,” Peng Zige rolled his eyes at her, “First you should be more worried about placing ahead of me in this exam!”
Su Zi, who was usually behind Peng Zige by a few points, flushed red. “If I end up placing ahead of you in this exam, then you have to treat Rong Si and me to a big meal!”
Peng Zige chuckled. “Shoot! What does Rong Si have to do with you? Why does it have to be Rong Si and you?”
Su Zi turned even more red, “Now you’re just being annoying!”
“Were you talking about me?” Rong Si turned to them and asked after he had finished answering the other girl’s question.
“Not really!” Su Zi deflected as she took out her geography book from her drawer. “Hey, Rong Si, do you think this (topic) will come up on the exams?”
“I’m 80-100% sure it will come up during the exams,” he surmised.
“Sadly I still don’t quite understand it.”
Rong Si took out a reference book from his own desk drawer and quickly flipped through it until he came to a page. “There’s a good explanation here. You should still have time to look through it now before the exam.”
“Thanks heaps!” Su Zi happily accepted the reference book and then made a face at Peng Zige. “Get your wallet ready!”
A disgruntled Peng Zige took out his English revision book and tugged Rong Si’s elbow “Ah Si, I don’t understand this here too! You’ll have to explain it to me!”
(Minodayz : is it me or what…but I can just visualize PZG tugging RS, and his shoulders and head kinda moving (swinging) side to side in that petulant manner – cracks me up!!! Actually can I almost hear him too! lol)
Rong Si looked at him with disdain, “You don’t know enough vocabulary words for this. Start memorising those words first.”
Right when he had finished speaking, yet another female student approached the side of his desk holding a physics workbook. She quietly asked, ”Rong….Rong Si classmate, can you please help explain this question to me?”
Rong Si nodded, and with his face devoid of any expression, he spared a glance at Li Erqin who was still sprawled on her desk sound asleep. Then he lowered his head and started explaining the problem to the student.
Translated by : Minodayz
TLCed by : tranzgeek
Edited by: maripaz