Wolf Cub – Chapter 61

In the past, Lin Shiyu’s summer and winter vacations were simple: taking care of his sister, doing housework, helping at his aunt’s shop, doing homework, and staying by himself. He had no friends, so he had no entertainment.

However, the last summer vacation of his first year in high school brought new memories. Zhong Qi would often take him to the club to practice boxing. Sometimes, they would play basketball in the yard. When Zhong Qi found out Lin Shiyu couldn’t swim, he took him to a gym pool to teach him. Zhong Qi knew where all the good food and drinks were, and he always knew where to take Lin Shiyu.

Zhong Qi seemed very adept at having fun, and he seemed to have a lot of free time, always taking Lin Shiyu around. Lin Shiyu had never had such experiences, and he would lose track of time while playing.

Then, a week before school started again, he remembered his summer homework.

“We have this much summer homework?” Lin Shiyu sat in a cool ice cream shop, six workbooks spread out in front of him, stunned.

“Is it a lot?” Zhong Qi, sitting opposite him, lazily doing his homework, said, “It’s not too bad. Excluding essays and journals, you can finish it in three days.”

Lin Shiyu looked utterly defeated. Seeing his dejected expression, Zhong Qi couldn’t help but laugh. “Alright, I’ll help you.”

“It’s all your fault for making me play all the time!”

“Okay, blame me.”

Zhong Qi pushed aside the pile of workbooks in front of Lin Shiyu and picked one out. “Start with this one. It’s easy…”

His hand accidentally brushed against Lin Shiyu’s fingers holding a pen. Lin Shiyu flinched as if electrocuted, clutching his fingers and looking away, not speaking.

That was the finger that had been cut earlier. The wound had long healed, but the warmth from Zhong Qi’s tongue seemed to linger. Zhong Qi paused, noticing Lin Shiyu’s slightly reddened ears, and after a moment, he calmly withdrew his hand.

The day before school started, Lin Shiyu, with Zhong Qi’s help, rushed through his homework in a flurry, finally managing to complete it. The next day, after classes officially resumed, the rankings for the previous semester’s final exams were posted. The top spot was taken by the legendary top student, Zuo Xiang, who was both first in class and first in grade, pushing Chen Xiaoxin to second place. Zhong Qi, as usual, floated around the top ten. Following them were Gao Jie, Mao Silu, Ruan Zhikai, and Lin Shiyu, who ranged from upper to lower-middle rankings.

Lin Shiyu scored 63 in biology and 91 in English, passing all subjects, a truly monumental achievement.

To celebrate this, Gao Jie and others ordered a banner overnight to congratulate Lin Shiyu on finally crossing the passing line. The banner read: “Congratulations to Lin Shiyu from Class 7, Grade 2, for passing all subjects.” Unfortunately, before the banner could be hung on the corridor rail, Lin Shiyu snatched it, rolled it into a ball, and threw it into the trash, almost beating up the organizers.

Later, Lin Shiyu, silently but grudgingly, bought a bunch of snacks and treats to share with Gao Jie and the others. He even made a special trip to give one to Li Zhong, who ruffled his hair teasingly, almost making him trip over his own feet.

He saved a box of matcha chocolate cookies and a bottle of pudding milk, placing them on Zhong Qi’s desk.

Zhong Qi picked up the box of cookies, recognizing them as the popular handmade cookies sold at the milk tea shop near the school entrance. They were limited to daily sales, priced at 150 yuan per box, with people queuing up every day but often failing to buy them. The pudding milk was also a new product from the milk tea shop, packaged in a durable organic glass bottle, priced at 50 yuan each.

Zhong Qi opened the box, took out a cookie, and took a bite. Turning his head, he saw Lin Shiyu watching him with a look of poorly concealed curiosity and expectation. Their eyes met, and Lin Shiyu quickly looked away, awkwardly turning his head and casually asking, “Is it–is it good?”

After speaking, he bit his lip in mild annoyance, probably frustrated with himself for stumbling over such a simple question.

Zhong Qi kept his eyes on Lin Shiyu’s face, observing his subtle expressions. He smiled silently and tapped the edge of the cookie box with his finger. “Haven’t you tried it yourself?”

“No, I don’t like sweets.”

Zhong Qi took out another cookie and raised it to feed Lin Shiyu. His movement was so natural that Lin Shiyu instinctively opened his mouth and took a bite before he even had time to think.

“Is it sweet?” Zhong Qi’s voice was soft, lacking its usual cold tone.

Lin Shiyu bit into the cookie, the sweetness of the matcha chocolate melting on his tongue. He slowly chewed and mumbled, “Mm.”

Not far away, Gao Jie held a spicy stick in his mouth without chewing for a while; Mao Silu clutched a half-opened bag of chips; Ruan Zhikai opened a bag of pineapple cakes; and Shen Ziyi stopped peeling a candy wrapper halfway. They were all lined up, their expressions varied and colorful, staring at Zhong Qi and Lin Shiyu sitting together in the back row.

Gao Jie dazedly ate the spicy stick. “Guys, am I the only one who feels something is off?”

Shen Ziyi’s eyes were wide. “Mao, Kai Kai, do you guys usually feed each other like this?”

Ruan Zhikai said, “If he tried to feed me like that, I’d throw him out the classroom window.”

Mao Silu quietly said, “For some reason, my stomach suddenly feels blocked.”

“The seating chart is out.”

The class monitor called from the front of the classroom, displaying the new seating chart on the whiteboard. Everyone began to move to their new seats. Lin Shiyu looked for his name and found it in the middle row of the first group by the corridor.

Next to his name was Zhong Qi.

In front of him was the top student, Zuo Xiang, and behind him was the second top student, Chen Xiaoxin.

The top ten students in the class formed a circle, trapping him, one of the bottom ten, vividly in the corner.

Lin Shiyu almost fainted.

During the lunch break, Zhong Qi received a text message from his father, saying there was something going on at home, so he didn’t need to return after school and should stay at his grandmother’s house instead.

The brief message made Zhong Qi sense something was wrong. He thought about how his father had been home less frequently lately. As well as the increasingly cold stove and dinner table, and the silent, habitual cold war between them.

He had a premonition, but he felt surprisingly calm, as if he had been mentally prepared for a long time.

The weather was getting hotter, and the sun was blazing on the playground, casting shade from the surrounding cedar trees. Zhong Qi put away his phone and tossed the empty soy milk bottle into a trash can five meters away.

He heard the rustling of plastic bags beside him. Lin Shiyu was sitting next to him, quietly drinking milk from a box after finishing a snack of fried glutinous rice balls.

They sat under the shade of the trees on a summer afternoon, the dappled light filtering through their short hair and trouser legs, the sunlight creating a peaceful and quiet scene.

Zhong Qi watched Lin Shiyu’s relaxed, stretched-out legs, the sparkling light spots moving across his slender, pale ankles and back again.

He suddenly spoke. “I’ve no place to sleep tonight.”

“What happened?”

“My parents aren’t home.”

“What about your keys?”

“I forgot them.”

“You forgot your keys?”

“Even the best plans can have flaws.”

Lin Shiyu’s expression was blank for a second. “So, what now?”

Zhong Qi looked at him and quickly offered a solution: “I’ll sleep at your place.”

He answered too quickly, making it hard not to suspect that this conversation had been planned. However, Lin Shiyu was never like ordinary people. He had no suspicions at all. The moment he heard the words, he choked on his milk and turned his head, coughing violently.

Zhong Qi calmly patted his back while Lin Shiyu stiffened in place, his ears turning slightly red from the coughing fit. He seemed to exhibit some kind of awkward and hidden emotional clumsiness.

Zhong Qi watched Lin Shiyu, who looked a bit at a loss, wipe off the milk stain from his mouth. Suddenly, his mood, which shouldn’t have been pleasant, lifted a notch.

“Zhong Qi, are you sleeping over at our house?”

Lin Hui hurried out from the kitchen, welcoming the two into the house. She wiped her hands clean with an apron at the entrance while happily saying, “I just bought some beef today. I’ll steam more rice. Zhong Qi, stay a while and eat with us.”

Since Lin Hui changed jobs, she no longer worked overtime every other day like before. She had time every day to pick up her young daughter from school and no longer needed Lin Shiyu’s help to cook for the family. She also earned more money than before. The food on the table was noticeably better than before, and Lin Wan Yue’s originally round face looked even plumper.

Zhong Qi was very polite in front of adults. He bent down to take off his shoes, saying, “I’m sorry to bother you with my stay tonight, Auntie.”

Lin Shiyu rolled his eyes behind him.

Lin Hui really liked this classmate of her son’s; he was tall and handsome, polite, good at studies, and most importantly, had a good relationship with Xiao Yu. She was very enthusiastic, specially taking out yogurt and ice cream from the fridge for Zhong Qi to eat, brands she usually hesitated to buy.

“When you come to the table later, don’t talk nonsense. If my mom asks about my performance at school, don’t mention my grades, and definitely don’t say I’ve been in fights.” Lin Shiyu dragged a chair over to his desk and put it next to his own chair, anxiously reminding Zhong Qi. “Did you hear me?”

Zhong Qi ate his peeled ice cream, one hand in his pocket, his school bag slung over one shoulder. He stood nonchalantly in the center of Shiyu’s bedroom, surveying his surroundings absent-mindedly, but he had a very strong presence.

“Mm.” Zhong Qi nodded casually, saying off-handedly, “The ice cream tastes pretty good. Want a bite?”

Forget it, this guy clearly isn’t listening to him. Lin Shiyu irritably arranged the chair and glanced at the half-eaten ice cream in his hand, his eyes flickering as if avoiding something, and he lowered his gaze, saying, “…Go out. It’s time for dinner.”

Zhong Qi paused, his Adam’s apple moving lightly. His gaze, which had been observing the small bedroom, turned a corner and landed on Lin Shiyu.

Lin Shiyu turned to leave, but Zhong Qi subtly moved a small step, blocking Lin Shiyu in front of him.

“Have a bite?” Zhong Qi lowered his head, his voice soft and lacking its usual distant coldness, blending with a subtle upward softness that almost hinted at coaxing. “It tastes really good.”

Lin Shiyu couldn’t discern his tone or understand his actions. He only felt that Zhong Qi was too close. In this small bedroom, there was the suffocating feeling of being squeezed in, making his heart almost numb and his fingertips lacking blood supply, making him unable to move.

The ice cream still emitted a dense coldness. Lin Shiyu swallowed dry saliva, and after a long while, he opened his mouth and bit into the ice cream offered to his lips.

The cold and sweet ice cream melted from his tongue to his throat. While it cooled his stomach slightly, it ignited a fiery blaze in his chest, burning his blood, which rapidly surged backward.

He heard Zhong Qi ask, “How is it?”

Then his own voice answered, “It’s okay.”

Then Zhong Qi finally stepped back from that suffocating proximity, seemingly indifferent but also deliberately pinpointing where Lin Shiyu had bitten into the ice cream. Taking a small bite along the lower edge of the ice cream, he vaguely responded, “Mm, let’s go eat.”

He turned and left the room, leaving Lin Shiyu standing still. 

It took him a long time to raise his hand, fingers trembling slightly and wiping off the remnants of ice cream on his lips.

He finally realized how intensely, almost abnormally, he cared about Zhong Qi—his every move, his approaching steps, the deep tone of his voice when Zhong Qi talked to him, as well as the occasional lift of his lips that easily distracted him, leaving his mind dizzy and blank.

What am I thinking? Lin Shiyu asked himself blankly yet nervously in his mind. What do I want to do?

A heart-pounding answer instinctively sprang to Lin Shiyu’s mind, but he almost immediately chose to avoid it, forcefully wiping away that answer.

This isn’t right. Lin Shiyu’s palms sweated. No matter what, this isn’t right.

“Little Shiyu, come eat.” Lin Hui’s voice came from outside the door, calling him to come eat.

Lin Shiyu felt as if he had awakened from a cold dream, blood circulating again, and feeling returning to his fingertips.

At the dinner table, Lin Hui kept serving the three children, asking Zhong Qi about Lin Shiyu’s school matters. Zhong Qi answered everything without missing a beat. Later, somehow, they talked about Lin Wanyue again. Lin Hui spoke very familiarly about Down Syndrome, having asked around and researched extensively to take care of her daughter at hospitals and special education schools. While Lin Hui talked, Zhong Qi listened attentively beside her.

Lin Wanyue wasn’t particularly afraid of Zhong Qi either. Perhaps subconsciously, she knew this person was her brother’s guitar “teacher.” Compared to other males besides her brother, Lin Wanyue’s attitude toward Zhong Qi could be considered quite tolerant. At least she didn’t hide in her small room, holding a bowl and ducking under the table when Zhong Qi sat down for dinner.

Lin Shiyu, however, was completely out of it the whole time, eating in silence with his head buried in his food, hardly speaking to Zhong Qi.

His mind was filled with random thoughts, from thinking he was abnormal to now believing Zhong Qi also had issues. Why else would he feed him ice cream? And bite where he had eaten before? And earlier, feed him cookies? Was he treating him like a pig?!

Lin Shiyu quickly realized that Zhong Qi not only treated him like a pig but also like muddy clay that wouldn’t stick to the wall. As soon as they finished eating, Zhong Qi dragged him back to his room to supervise him doing homework, trying to force this lump of clay that had been mushy for months to stick to the wall.

The same Zhong Qi who had just fed him ice cream was now sitting sternly at the desk, tapping his pen on the table. “After finishing your homework, memorize 50 more words. No sleeping until you’re done.”

Lin Shiyu felt like he was being blackmailed. “How can anyone memorize so many words in one day?!”

“I can memorize 200 words in a day.”

Lin Shiyu stared at Zhong Qi. “…”

Zhong Qi pinched his chin and turned back to his open workbook. “Hurry up and write. After you’re done, check your answers. If your accuracy is below 60%, you’ll memorize another 50 words.”

“What? How am I supposed to do so many questions?”

“And you still have the nerve to complain…”

The two sat side by side at the desk doing homework, with a warm yellow lamp twisting by the window. The early summer in Wuhan was hot and humid. Lin Hui was afraid Zhong Qi would feel hot, so she had turned on the air conditioning in Lin Shiyu’s room early and brought two cups of specially chilled milk to the table. The air conditioner hummed softly as it blew, and the two occasionally talked, with Zhong Qi teaching Lin Shiyu how to solve problems.

At ten o’clock at night, Lin Shiyu finally finished his homework and stumbled through memorizing the infuriating 100 words. After finishing, his brain was practically fried. The earlier fluster and excitement were now just a mess, and Zhong Qi had firmly established himself as the second Mr. Li in Lin Shiyu’s mind.

After taking a shower and spending some time with Lin Wanyue until she fell asleep, Lin Shiyu returned to his room. He pushed open the door and saw Zhong Qi leaning against the head of the bed, looking at his phone, one leg bent and the other casually stretched out on the bed.

He acted like he owned the place.

Lin Shiyu had nothing to say. He pulled out a thin blanket from the closet. Before he could even lay it on the bed, Zhong Qi asked, “Isn’t there already a blanket on the bed?”

“How can one blanket cover both of us?” Besides, Zhong Qi was so tall that he could occupy more than half of the blanket. Was he even going to let him sleep?

Zhong Qi didn’t say anything. He watched Lin Shiyu shake out the thin blanket and spread it over the bed, leaving the thicker one for Zhong Qi and covering himself with the thinner one.

Lin Shiyu reached for the bedside button. “I’m turning off the light.”

With a click, the room plunged into darkness.

Faint starlight filtered through the window, and Lin Shiyu inadvertently turned his head, catching a fleeting look of indifference on Zhong Qi’s face.

The deep blue of the night enveloped his handsome features in darkness, with only a faint light sliding over his prominent nose. His pitch-black eyes suddenly lowered.

It seemed that the severe and strict person who had been forcing Lin Shiyu to study was just a facade. This person who seemed indifferent to everything around him was the real Zhong Qi.

Lin Shiyu had originally intended to lie down holding the blanket, but at this moment, he felt a strange sense of familiarity.

So Zhong Qi also had a side that needed to hide in the darkness before he was willing to reveal it?

After a while, Lin Shiyu’s voice broke the dim silence of the room. “Zhong Qi.”

Zhong Qi turned off his phone and placed it on the table. “Yeah?”

“Why did you suddenly come to sleep at my house?”

“Didn’t I tell you? I forgot my keys.”

Lin Shiyu glanced at him speechlessly, even though Zhong Qi couldn’t see it. He lay down under the blanket and muttered softly, “You wouldn’t forget something like that.”

After a brief silence, there was a low chuckle followed by a rustling sound as Zhong Qi got into bed.

Warm breath brushed against Lin Shiyu, carrying a familiar and pleasant hormone scent. Lin Shiyu belatedly realized, as he tightened his grip on the blanket, covering his neck and shoulders, that Zhong Qi was lying face to face with him in bed, much closer than ordinary friends.

Lin Shiyu closed his eyes tightly, feeling his slightly warm cheek with the back of his hand.

Then he heard Zhong Qi calmly say, “I guess my parents are getting divorced.”

Lin Shiyu stared at Zhong Qi in astonishment for a long time.

“Later than I imagined,” Zhong Qi stated as if he were stating a fact that had nothing to do with himself. “I thought they would have divorced years ago, but I didn’t expect it to drag on this long.”

Lin Shiyu was at a loss for words and finally asked after a while, “Are they fighting?”

“They don’t fight,” Zhong Qi said. “They don’t even have an idea of understanding each other. What’s there to fight about?”

In the quiet and lightless bedroom, the cold wind smoothed out the heat, as if it were blowing into the depths of the heart, freezing Lin Shiyu’s heart suddenly.

Before his mind could process it, his hand had somehow reached out under the blanket and grasped the other’s hand.

When comforting his little sister to sleep before, and even when holding his injured mother, Lin Shiyu would hold their hands like this. He was clumsy with words, unable to speak, only able to express all his feelings of concern and care in the simplest and most direct way.

So now Lin Shiyu held Zhong Qi’s hand, tightening his fingers until the warmth seeped through their touching skin, gradually warming Zhong Qi’s hand.


Edited by: Jaisland



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