After being ruthlessly tormented for a week, the exhausted students finally received some good news: due to their instructors suddenly assigned a group task, the training after dinner was canceled, and they would instead have an outdoor movie screening.
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Only they knew the inhumane “torture” they had endured these past few days. The weather was infuriatingly nice every day, and regardless of whether the instructors were wearing stern or friendly faces, they didn’t skip any training exercises. Even when they returned at night, they couldn’t sleep peacefully, as they would occasionally face surprise inspections. If they encountered the stern-faced instructor by themselves, even a minor infraction could result in the unfortunate fate of being sent to the kitchen to wash dishes.
A platform was set up by the track in the playground, with a large screen on it. The projection lights at the top of the screen were turned off, and an old movie from the 70s or 80s was playing.
The students sat on the grass in the middle of the playground, most of them huddled together chatting and playing around, with only a few actually watching the movie.
Gao Jie slapped himself in the face, killing his eighth mosquito of the evening.
“Speak properly, don’t slap yourself,” Ruan Zhikai said.
“If I keep sitting like this, mosquitoes will suck me dry.” Gao Jie complained and asked around, “Does anyone have some mosquito repellent?”
Next to him, Tao Chen handed over a bottle of floral water. Gao Jie quickly received it with gratitude and sprayed it on himself.
The boys and girls of Class 7 had been divided into two separate groups for training for over a week. Now, during the movie screening, they gathered together again and sat down, with Tao Chen sitting next to Zhong Qi.
Gao Jie sprayed a few times on the bitten areas of his body and rubbed them vigorously, finally feeling more comfortable. He then took the spray and sprayed it on the people around him, saying, “Come on, let’s all use it. The mosquitoes at night are terrifying.”
Lin Shiyu was originally watching the movie with his chin propped up, and suddenly had his face sprayed with floral water. He immediately sneezed and exclaimed, “What are you doing!”
“I’m driving away mosquitoes for you.”
“Get lost.” Lin Shiyu pushed him away, wiped the floral water off his mouth with his sleeve, and tasted a cool and bitter flavor. Immediately, he started searching for his own water bottle, with the intention of pinning Gao Ji to the ground and pouring a whole bottle of floral water into his mouth.
As something touched his shoulder, Lin Shiyu covered his mouth and turned his head to look. In the darkness, Zhong Qi’s face was slightly blurred in the reflected light and shadows from the screen, but his eyes were still pitch-black and bright, highly recognizable in the night.
He held Lin Shiyu’s water bottle in his hand and said, “It fell behind you.”
Lin Shiyu took the water bottle, unscrewed it, and took a few sips, rinsing away the taste of the floral water from his mouth.
“Gao Jie, what are you doing?” Tao Chen lightly patted Gao Jie’s back with a hint of laughter in her voice. ‘You’re spraying my things everywhere.”
Gao Jie grinned and handed her the spray. Tao Chen took it, glanced at Zhong Qi beside her, and asked, “Zhong Qi, do you also want to use this?”
After handing the water to Lin Shiyu, Zhong Qi continued to sit cross-legged on the ground, gazing at the movie screen as if lost in thought. He then turned his head upon hearing a sound and glanced at the spray bottle in Tao Chen’s hand, saying, “No need.”
Tao Chen nodded and put away the spray bottle.
Suddenly, a figure leaped from behind and landed right next to Lin Shiyu. Startled for the second time that night, Lin Shiyu showed signs of irritation. “Who is it?”
“It’s your adorable and handsome Comrade Shen Ziyi’s live thunderbolt.” Shen Ziyi crouched next to Lin Shiyu, tossing the plastic bag from her arms onto the ground. She glanced at him and said, “Oh, it’s you. It’s so dark here that I have no idea where I am. I had to grope my way around to find our Class 7, luckily I didn’t make a mistake.”
She then excitedly poured everything from the bag onto the ground, saying, “Look, I bought a bunch of snacks! I sneaked off to the convenience store just now. Pretty cool, huh?”
Lin Shiyu couldn’t get angry this time, so he only sat next to her casually and saw the biscuits, candy, potato chips, spicy sticks, and more snacks scattered on the ground in front of him.
“Come, have some.” Shen Ziyi haphazardly handed out snacks to the people around her. When she came to Lin Shiyu, she asked, “What do you like to eat?”
“I’m not eating.”
“Okay, then I’ll just give you a lollipop.” Shen Ziyi didn’t hesitate and stuffed a lollipop into his hand.
She then continued to distribute snacks to others, ignoring Lin Shiyu.
Lin Shiyu held the milk-flavored lollipop in his hand, speechless.
Suddenly, Zhong Qi spoke up next to him. “She gave me a pack of potato chips, do you want them?”
Lin Shiyu raised his head in confusion and found Zhong Qi looking at him. Indeed, he was talking to him.
“Tomato flavor.” Zhong Qi added.
A “no” got stuck in Lin Shiyu’s throat.
Zhong Qi showed him the bag of potato chips, which was indeed tomato-flavored. Lin Shiyu felt a little tempted and was about to reach out to take them, but Zhong Qi retracted the chips.
“Trade it for your lollipop.” Zhong Qi confidently said.
Lin Shiyu stared at him in astonishment for a while before he squeezed out a sentence, “Are you so childish?”
“An eye for an eye, what’s the problem?”
Lin Shiyu realized that Zhong Qi seemed to be in a good mood, which explained why he was joking around. Lin Shiyu didn’t want to bother with him and threw the lollipop at him. Then he extended his hand, looking at Zhong Qi.
Zhong Qi put the lollipop in his pocket and then tore open the potato chip package.
“What’s wrong?” Zhong Qi took out a chip from the bag, raised an eyebrow at Lin Shiyu, and said, “I’m going to taste it first.”
Only then did Lin Shiyu realize that he had been played. He was immediately angry and reached for the chips in Zhong Qi’s hand, saying, “Give them to me.”
Zhong Qi quickly grabbed the open chips bag and lifted it out of Lin Shiyu’s reach.
Lin Shiyu had never encountered such a teasing situation before. Usually, he faced more serious and worse conditions.
However, in this seemingly intimate playfulness between close people, with a bit of harmless teasing, Lin Shiyu didn’t know how to react – should he be genuinely angry or just ignore it. He felt both annoyed and surprised, unsure why Zhong Qi would behave this way.
“You said we could exchange.” Lin Shiyu glared angrily at Zhong Qi, unable to reach his arm.
His eyes shone remarkably when he glared at people, and the alternating light and darkness in his eyes danced and flickered like waves, reflecting even brighter.
Zhong Qi lowered his head, looking at him, a smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. “I never said I wouldn’t give it to you.”
“Then give it to me,” Lin Shiyu insisted, trying to grab it. He couldn’t reach Zhong Qi’s arm, so he placed his hand on Zhong Qi’s thigh and half-knelt, attempting to snatch the bag of chips. Zhong Qi supported him with his own leg, raising the bag of chips high above.
Lin Shiyu tried for a while but couldn’t reach it, so he withdrew his hand and glared angrily at Zhong Qi. He didn’t even realize that his hand was still on Zhong Qi’s leg, tightly clenched into a fist, expressing his displeasure.
They were so close that their legs touched, their arms brushed against each other, their breaths mingled and formed a warm current that dissipated into the night sky.
Zhong Qi suddenly had a moment of distraction. Perhaps they were too close, and he caught a whiff of the refreshing scent emanating from Lin Shiyu, like a stream flowing through the mountains after the rain, with water droplets splashing on the surface of the pebbles by the river bank.
“What are you two doing?” Tao Chen’s voice interrupted. “You’re grown-ups, yet you’re still fighting over things.”
With her remark, Lin Shiyu sat back but continued to gaze at Zhong Qi, determined not to give up on the chips.
Finally, Shen Ziyi finished distributing the snacks and skipped back, saying, “I still have one pack of chips left, tomato flavored. Who wants it?”
Lin Shiyu hesitated, no longer looking at Zhong Qi, and turned his head to Shen Ziyi.
Shen Ziyi noticed his gaze and waved the bag in her hand. “Do you want it?”
Just as Lin Shiyu was about to answer, something flew into his arms.
He lowered his head and saw a half-opened bag of tomato-flavored chips.
Lin Shiyu looked at Zhong Qi. The person who had just made fun of him a few seconds ago was now sitting on the ground with one leg crossed, his gaze fixed on the movie screen, holding a chip in his hand, and taking a bite.
After watching the movie, Lin Shiyu didn’t walk with Zhong Qi. He was still angry. Although he eventually got the chips, that first piece that was snatched away remained stuck in his mind, giving him the illusion that he hadn’t eaten anything.
Frustrated, Lin Shiyu walked alone, pretending to be mature but in reality feeling incredibly childish.
When he returned to the dormitory, he took a shower in the bathhouse and then retrieved his phone from under the pillow. He turned it on to see if his mother had sent him any messages.
There were no unread messages, only two missed calls, both from his mother.
Lin Shiyu paused, holding the phone and stepping off the bed. He pushed open the door of the dormitory and walked all the way to the corner of the stairs before stopping and calling her back.
The call was quickly answered, and Lin Shiyu asked, “Why did you call me?”
Lin Hui’s voice was already light and sounded slightly distorted on the phone. “Have you just returned to the dormitory?”
“Oh…” Lin Hui hesitated for a moment before saying, “Little Yue misses you a bit.”
“I’ll be back in another week.”
“She… She has been unhappy lately, refusing to eat properly and ignoring me.” Lin Hui’s voice sounded a little embarrassed. “Her teachers at school say she is not focused in class and doesn’t do her homework.”
Lin Shiyu fell silent.
“Can you come out? Just for a while, it won’t take long. Let little Yue see you, and accompany her for a bit, that should be enough.”
“It’s very strict here.”
“Ah, alright.” Lin Hui said. “Then focus on your military training. It’s fine, I’ll try to cheer her up.”
Lin Shiyu hung up the phone and walked back to the dormitory with a preoccupied mind. When he opened the door and saw the scene inside, his expression froze.
Four guys sat in a circle, with a chair in the middle, each holding a deck of cards.
None of them were wearing a shirt.
Lin Shiyu instinctively closed the door.
These four mischievous guys, who knew what they were gambling with. They had already taken off their shirts and started playing “Fight the Landlord.” The other three had good physiques, while Gao Jie stood out with his round belly reflecting under the bright lights. Fortunately, he didn’t feel embarrassed at all. When he saw Lin Shiyu, he patted his belly boldly and said, “Comrade Lin, don’t worry, it’ll be your turn once someone loses.”
“…I’m not playing.” Lin Shiyu walked past them, unable to resist asking, “Where did the cards come from?”
Gao Jie proudly replied, “I brought them, and specifically hid them at the bottom of my backpack, so the instructors didn’t find them during the search.”
“I don’t have any cards left.” Mao Silu was frustrated with the cards in his hand. “You guys tricked me out of all my pairs. You’re too ruthless!”
“You’re the landlord, who else should we trick?” Ruan Zhikai gloated and urged him, “Hurry up and lose. Once you lose, you have to take off your pants.”
Listening to this unbearable conversation, Lin Shiyu numbly leaned against his bedside and played with his phone.
“Three with a pair, I’m out.” Zhong Qi threw his last card onto the chair, spread his hands, and said, “Strip.”
“Don’t take off my pants!” Mao Silu resisted vigorously as Ruan Zhikai and Gao Jie reached their hands out toward him. “I’ll do it myself!”
Resistance was futile, as Mao Silu was stripped down to just his underwear, looking as pitiful as a bullied little wife.
“Comrade Lin, care to join?” Gao Jie enthusiastically invited Lin Shiyu. “Start by taking off your shirt as a warm-up, and we’ll settle the game quickly.”
Lin Shiyu firmly refused. “I’m not playing.”
After that, these four guys tried every means to strip everyone else except themselves. They used cunning methods and went to great lengths. In the end, only Zhong Qi was left with his pants on.
“Plane with wings, three threes, six, seven, eight!” Gao Jie slammed his cards onto the chair. “I’m out!”
This time, the landlord Zhong Qi was fiercely besieged by the three of them and by the end was unable to escape. He had to throw his remaining cards onto the chair.
Gao Jie, Mao Silu, Ruan Zhikai: “Strip! Strip!”
Zhong Qi stood up, as the three oppressed peasants turned the tables and sang triumphantly, rushing to unbuckle Zhong Qi’s belt, “Hurry up, stop dawdling!”
“Surrender the gun, don’t kill!”
“Get lost.” Even Zhong Qi couldn’t help but laugh at their antics. “I’ll do it myself.”
Just as he reached for his belt, a knocking sound suddenly came from outside the door.
“We’re conducting a room check. What’s going on in there?”
In that instant, Ruan Zhikai quickly gathered the playing cards on the chair, Gao Jie spread his legs and sat precisely on the pile of playing cards, covering the chair with his entire backside, while the chair made a creaking sound as if it was dying.
The next second, the door was pushed open, and the teacher in charge of room inspections appeared outside.
Lin Shiyu was stunned by this seamlessly coordinated operation.
The teacher held a list, with one hand still on the doorknob. When he looked up and saw the situation in the dormitory, his expression became extremely complicated.
“What are you all doing?”
Mao Silu, wearing only his underpants, stood obediently to the side. “Teacher, we were just preparing to sleep.”
“Sleeping without clothes?”
“We like to sleep naked.” Gao Jie rubbed his body earnestly. “It helps with cooling down.”
“Oh.” The teacher pointed to Lin Shiyu, who was sitting neatly in the middle, fully clothed. “Then why is he still wearing clothes?”
Lin Shiyu: “…”
Zhong Qi quickly added, “He was about to take them off.”
Lin Shiyu: “…”
The teacher, in a hurry to check the next room, was interrupted and didn’t have the mental capacity to delve further so he just waved his hand. “Alright, alright, everyone is here, keep the dormitory clean and don’t be too loud.”
After the teacher left, there was a moment of silence in the dormitory, followed by everyone starting to move.
“Come on, let’s continue stripping, Brother Qi…”
Lin Shiyu said, “Continue?!”
“Continue!” Gao Jie shouted. “Tonight, no one is allowed to sleep wearing clothes. Lin Shiyu, you’re not allowed to separate from the collective!”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Come on, come on…”
There was a bang on the dormitory door, and the teacher outside angrily yelled, “Shut up and go to sleep!”
The entire dormitory finally fell completely silent.
Edited by: Jaisland