There Is No One Like YouChapters List
Chapter 2: Ruan from Ruan Diao Huan Jiu
That evening, the mutton didn't taste very good. After it cooled down, it had a strong gamey flavor and the meat was tough. Ruan Mian only ate one skewer, and the rest was taken away by Fang Ruqing and thrown out.
"If it's cold, don't eat it," Fang Ruqing said as she brought Ruan Mian a bowl of mung bean soup from the kitchen. "Finish it, take a shower and go to bed early."
"I know," Ruan Mian replied, taking a few sips and returning to her room to get her pajamas. When she came out after taking a shower, she ran into Zhao Shutang, who was going downstairs to the bathroom.
Her hand, which was drying her hair, paused for a moment. In the few seconds of hesitation whether to say hello or not, Zhao Shutang had already walked past her without looking and closed the bathroom door loudly.
Ruan Mian sighed, puffed out her cheeks, and took the towel off her head, holding it in her hand as she lightened her footsteps up the stairs.
Take it slowly, she thought.
The next day, Ruan Mian, still in a daze, thought she had to make up for classes. She got up before seven and went downstairs to wash up. Fang Ruqing, who was preparing breakfast in the kitchen, poked her head out. "Why are you up so early?"
"I got the time wrong," Ruan Mian replied, finishing her preparations and walking towards the kitchen. "Do you need any help?"
"Then help me take the dishes and chopsticks out. We'll have breakfast soon."
"Okay." Ruan Mian rolled up her sleeves, took the clean dishes and chopsticks outside, and arranged them on the table according to the seating order, with the morning sunlight shining on the corner of the table.
After a while, Zhao Yingwei and Duan Ying came back from outside. The two children from the Zhao family were still asleep, and Zhao Yingwei was about to wake them up, but Duan Ying stopped him. "School is about to start. Let them sleep a bit longer while they can."
Zhao Yingwei thought it made sense and sat down, looking at Ruan Mian. "Mianmian, your school is over now. You can sleep a little longer in the morning from now on."
Before Ruan Mian could speak, Fang Ruqing came out of the kitchen and chimed in, "She just got the time wrong today, that's why she got up so early. In the past, she wouldn't get up before noon."
Zhao Yingwei chuckled, "Students nowadays are under a lot of pressure and hard work. It's good to get some extra sleep during the holidays."
Breakfast started with a seemingly harmonious atmosphere. At the dining table, Duan Ying also exchanged a few words with Ruan Mian, which seemed quite friendly.
They quickly finished breakfast, and Fang Ruqing and Zhao Yingwei had to go to work. Ruan Mian had nothing to do, so she went out with them to reacquaint herself with the surroundings.
When they passed by Li's supermarket, they saw unloading activities at the store entrance. Ruan Mian only saw the middle-aged man from last night giving orders, but she didn't see Li Zhi and the other guy, Chen Yi.
As they walked to the alley, Zhao Yingwei's car stopped by the roadside. Fang Ruqing handed some money to Ruan Mian. "If you don't want to stay at home for lunch, go out and hang out with friends. Come back for dinner."
Ruan Mian felt her mother was a bit overly concerned, but she still took the money to reassure her. "Okay, I'll let you know if I go out."
The car drove away, and Ruan Mian put the money in her pocket, looking up at the overlapping antennas overhead. Then she turned and walked forward along the shops on the side of the road.
She spent the entire morning walking through all the alleys and lanes in the Pingjiang West Lane area. The area wasn't large, but there were many alleys.
Around ten o'clock, Ruan Mian entered from the east end of the alley and walked directly to the entrance of Li's supermarket. The owner was standing next to the counter, pressing buttons on the computer. When he saw her coming in, he gave her a simple smile and asked, "What would you like to buy, little girl?"
Ruan Mian took two steps inside. "I want to buy some snacks."
The supermarket was small, with only four rows of shelves. In the back, there was a door leading to a small courtyard. At this moment, the curtain was rolled up and hung on the wall. Ruan Mian noticed a well in the middle of the yard, with a red and white porcelain basin placed beside it, and a corner where a flower rack stood.
She didn't linger inside for too long. With the money Fang Ruqing gave her, she bought some snacks and a watermelon, carrying them on her way to the Zhao family.
Zhao Shutang and Zhao Shuyang, the two siblings, were already awake, sitting in the living room watching TV. Duan Ying was busy in the kitchen preparing lunch. Seeing Ruan Mian return, only Zhao Shuyang got up from the sofa to look at the items.
Ruan Mian placed the items on the table, stood there for a moment, and mustered the courage to go to the kitchen. "Grandmother, do you need any help?"
Duan Ying didn't even lift her head. "No need."
Ruan Mian pinched her fingers, suddenly unsure of what to say.
Duan Ying put down the kitchen knife and wiped her hands on her apron. "The kitchen is greasy. You go to the living room and watch TV with Shutang. We'll eat soon."
"Okay." Ruan Mian breathed a sigh of relief.
After the meal, Ruan Mian placed the snacks she bought on the coffee table in the living room and took the watermelon to the kitchen.
Zhao Shutang came to the kitchen once, standing at the doorway with her arms crossed, her gaze cold and sharp. "You don't need to do all this to please anyone. No matter what, I won't accept you and your mother."
Ruan Mian glanced at her but didn't say anything.
Perhaps Zhao Shutang also felt it was pointless. She turned around and left. Not long after, Zhao Shuyang appeared out of nowhere. Ruan Mian cut a small piece of watermelon for him. "Here, have it."
He took the watermelon and happily ran out to play.
Ruan Mian put the cut watermelon in the refrigerator, washed her hands, and returned to her bedroom on the second floor. The old floor fan blew directly at the end of the bed.
She lay horizontally on the bed with her eyes closed, and in the floating breeze, she inexplicably thought of that boy named Chen Yi, and his pair of dark eyes.
In a half-awake state, it was especially vivid.
In the following week, Ruan Mian would often go out in the evening, simply walking along one of the alleys. Sometimes she passed by Li's supermarket, sometimes by the internet cafe. She got to know Li Zhi and his friends, but she never saw that boy named Chen Yi again.
On the day of the new semester at Eighth Middle School, Fang Ruqing and Zhao Yingwei couldn't get time off since it was the end of the month. They had no choice but to entrust Ruan Mian to Zhao Shutang, who was in the same class.
While on the way to school, Zhao Shutang didn't hide her attitude. "My dad's money got you into our class. Besides Teacher Zhou, I don't want anyone else in the class to know about our relationship. Please maintain your distance from me while at school."
In this current academic year, Eighth Middle School had a total of 34 classes. Classes 1 to 22 were science classes, with Class 1 and Class 2 being experimental science classes. The remaining classes, from 23 to 32, were arts classes, and the last 2 classes were for science and arts respectively.
Although Ruan Mian's grades were decent, transferring to Eighth Middle School at this time meant that she could only join an average key class. However, with Zhao Yingwei having connections in the school, he paid some money to get her into the experimental science class where Zhao Shutang was studying.
Ruan Mian wasn't aware beforehand that she would be in the experimental class, and by the time she found out, it was already a settled matter. She couldn't trouble Zhao Yingwei anymore.
Now that Zhao Shutang said this, she didn't have much of a reaction. "Okay, I understand."
The teaching building for the second year was a separate building. The upper four floors were for science, while the lower two floors were for liberal arts. Ruan Mian studied science, so when they arrived at the school, Zhao Shutang took her to the office of their class teacher, Zhou Hai, and then went back to the classroom.
"Ruan Mian, I've seen your grades, and they're pretty good," Zhou Hai said, motioning for her to enter the office and sit for a while. "Some of the classmates haven't arrived yet. I'll take you to the classroom after the class starts."
"Okay, thank you, Teacher Zhou." Ruan Mian sat at the desk with her backpack, looking at the not-so-young class teacher.
Zhou Hai rubbed his fingers and took out her information from the desk. "I see that you've participated in quite a few biology competitions before. Are you interested in competitions?"
Ruan Mian didn't dare to say that most of those competitions were mandatory sign-ups from the teachers, so she compromised and said, "I'm just more interested in biology."
Zhou Hai nodded. "Well, that's a coincidence. I'm your biology teacher for this semester."
After chatting for a while, the bell for class rang, and the entire teaching building quickly demonstrated the excellent level of the key class students. Ruan Mian followed Zhou Hai as they passed by each class along the way. It was generally quiet, with very few instances of laughter and playfulness.
Zhao Shutang's second-grade Class 1 was situated at the corner of the third-floor corridor. Zhou Hai pushed open the door and entered. Upon seeing him, some of the students in the class, who had been taught by Zhou Hai in their first grade, playfully whistled. "Teacher Zhou, it's been a while since we last saw you."
Zhou Hai smiled warmly and had Ruan Mian stand by his side. "It's a new semester, which means we're one step closer to the college entrance examination. Some of the students in this class were with me in the first year, some might have just heard my name, and there may be others who probably don't even know who I am. But all of that doesn't matter. What matters is that from now on, we are a new collective. Here, let me introduce myself first. My name is Zhou Hai, Zhou as in 'Zhou Gong,' and Hai of the 'ocean.' I'll be your homeroom teacher and biology teacher for this semester. I hope we can all get along well."
A round of enthusiastic applause erupted, mixed with a few whistles.
Zhou Hai raised his hand to quiet them down and patted Ruan Mian's shoulder, signaling her to step forward. "This is our new transfer student for this semester. Let's welcome her."
Another round of applause followed. When it subsided, Zhou Hai asked Ruan Mian to introduce herself.
"Hello, everyone. My name is Ruan Mian, Ruan as in 'Ruan Diao Huan Jiu,' and Mian for 'sleep'." When Ruan Mian paused, trying to think of what else to say, the boy who had whistled earlier suddenly took the lead and applauded. The applause interrupted Ruan Mian's thoughts but also rescued her from the predicament.
Zhou Hai asked her to find an empty seat and sit down. In the key classes, the back seats are less popular, and most of the seats in the class were already taken. Only the last row of the first group was still empty. Ruan Mian chose the side closer to the corridor.
With her introduction as a starting point, Zhou Hai asked the rest of the class to introduce themselves, starting from the front row.
By the time everyone finished, Ruan Mian only remembered a few distinctive introductions, such as the boy who had whistled, named Jiang Rang.
On the first day of school, there wasn't much happening in the regular class, but it was different for the key class. In the afternoon, they had a preliminary test, focusing on the science section.
When Ruan Mian heard that there would be no English or Chinese test, she breathed a sigh of relief. She had a severe imbalance in her subjects. She consistently scored near perfect in science and mathematics, but always struggled to barely pass the Chinese and English exams, which was quite frustrating.
After the test in the afternoon, the results were posted after the second self-study session in the evening. Ruan Mian ranked fifth in the class based on her overall scores.
Jiang Rang came back after seeing the results and deliberately approached her. "Impressive, new classmate. Biology is so difficult, yet you managed to get a perfect score. Impressive."
Ruan Mian flipped through her book. "Wait until the next time we have a comprehensive test of all six subjects. You won't think the same then."
"What do you mean?"
"Nothing." She looked up and smiled.
Soon, the bell for the third self-study session rang. Zhou Hai brought the freshly printed biology papers and distributed them according to the students' scores.
Ruan Mian was the first to receive her paper and received many compliments when she went up to collect it. Zhou Hai even directly appointed her as the biology representative. "Keep up the good work."
"Thank you, Teacher Zhou." When she took her paper and went back to her seat, Ruan Mian saw Zhao Shutang sitting in the middle of the third row. They exchanged a glance before both looking away.
The pace in the key class was tight and fast. A self-study session was finished with a test. After school, Ruan Mian carried her backpack and left through the back door ahead of everyone else.
She walked all the way to the entrance of the alley near Zhao's house, where she waited for the belated Zhao Shutang. Together, they returned home, pretending they had come back from school together.
When they arrived home, Fang Ruqing came over to ask Ruan Mian about her day at school. Ruan Mian carefully picked and chose her words and then added, "Mom, you don't need to trouble Uncle Zhao to have Zhao Shutang wait for me to go to school. She has her freedom, and I have things to do. It's too troublesome this way."
"Well, that's fine," Fang Ruqing hesitated. "Did Shutang at school today..."
Ruan Mian said, "We're doing fine. You don't need to worry. We didn't have any arguments. Zhao Shutang isn't that unreasonable."
Fang Ruqing relaxed her furrowed brows and smiled warmly. "Then I can rest assured. You should sleep early."
The next day, as expected, Zhao Shutang didn't wait for Ruan Mian to go to school together. She left early in the morning. Ruan Mian felt at ease. After washing up, she left and bought breakfast at the alley entrance, eating it on the way to school.
She left a bit late, almost entering the classroom when the morning reading bell rang. When she sat down at her seat, she noticed that there was a black backpack placed next to her.
It seemed she had a new desk mate. Ruan Mian didn't pay much attention and took out her biology book from her bag, opening it to where she had left off.
When the second morning self-study bell rang, there was a rush of footsteps outside the back corridor. Several boys entered the classroom.
Someone sat down in the empty seat next to Ruan Mian. In her peripheral vision, she noticed a pair of long, straight legs. As the desk was not big enough, he stretched them forward.
Inadvertently, the boy's elbow bumped into Ruan Mian's line of sight. She saw a scar resembling a crescent moon shape on it and followed the arm upward.
Beyond the straight and smooth shoulder line and the distinct jawline, she caught a clear glimpse of his face.
Ruan Mian was stunned.
The boy looked a bit pale, with traces of staying up late visible in his eyes. His eyelashes weren't very long, but they were dense. When they drooped, they were as beautiful as raven feathers.
Chen Yi put down his backpack and met the girl's stunned gaze. He casually asked, "What's wrong?"
The boy's voice was still clean and lazy, carrying a hint of indifference. It fell smoothly into Ruan Mian's ears, unintentionally disturbing her heartbeat.
Ruan Mian felt as if she had been struck by a tremendous surprise. After snapping out of her daze, she experienced a moment of awkwardness and nervousness. Unconsciously, she had crumpled the edges of the textbook pages with her fingers.
Chen Yi clearly didn't remember Ruan Mian. As he waited for her response, he emphasized with a hint of confusion, "Hmm?"
Ruan Mian's heart soared and then suddenly dropped when it reached its peak. She loosened her tightly clenched hand and shook her head, saying, "It's nothing."
Perhaps accustomed to such encounters, Chen Yi didn't pay much attention and propped up a few books under his arm as a makeshift pillow, falling straight to sleep.
While he was carefree and relaxed, Ruan Mian felt restless as if sitting on pins and needles. The familiar biology symbols in front of her now appeared as indecipherable scriptures; she couldn't even comprehend a single punctuation mark.
Outside the window, the blooming season of the gardenia was coming to an end. The remaining subtle and elegant fragrance drifted into the classroom with the gentle breeze. Ruan Mian hung her head, amidst the chaotic and noisy sounds of students reading, she could hear Chen Yi's slow and steady breathing.
For Ruan Mian, that morning's self-study session was both long and unforgettable. It was a joyous reunion that belonged solely to her.
Like the lingering cool breeze of late summer, it couldn't settle down for a long time.
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