There Is No One Like YouChapters List
Chapter 8: The Boy Hidden in Her Heart
Meng Xinglan had something else to discuss with Liang Yiran, so she didn't ask Ruan Mian to accompany her to the liberal arts class. They parted ways at the staircase on the second floor.
Ruan Mian walked to the classroom door and pushed it open. Coincidentally, someone was coming out from inside. They collided, one pulling and the other pushing, neither paying attention to the other.
The girl's cup wasn't held securely, and with a clatter, it fell to the ground. The last remaining drops of water in the cup splashed onto Ruan Mian's shoes.
Ruan Mian took a small step back and bent down to pick up the cup and the scattered lid, handing them over, "I'm sorry, I didn't notice someone was coming out."
The girl's name was Liu Jingyi, the class representative for Chinese class.
She took the cup from Ruan Mian's hand and subtly curled her lips, her expression and gaze dripping with unmistakable disgust. Her tone wasn't pleasant either, "Watch where you're walking next time."
As she left, she intentionally bumped Ruan Mian's shoulder with hers.
Rubbing her shoulder, Ruan Mian watched her retreating figure, feeling puzzled but not dwelling on it. She lifted her foot and entered the classroom.
After a short while of sitting down, Liu Jingyi returned with the water. Zhao Shutang was by her side, chatting and laughing. Then it dawned on Ruan Mian that Zhao Shutang was likely behind this mischief.
Ruan Mian didn't find such petty tricks appealing at all. She turned her pen in her hand and shifted her gaze away, finding no interest in the situation.
Not far away, Zhao Shutang listened to Liu Jingyi's words, looked over at Ruan Mian, and then casually said, "That's just how she is. She acts all innocent like a little rabbit, but she's just like her mom, full of malicious intentions. My dad got fooled just like that."
Liu Jingyi sighed, "I really feel sorry for you."
During the summer break, Liu Jingyi had heard Zhao Shutang talk about how her dad had become distant after remarrying, focusing more on her stepmom's daughter. They even managed to get that girl into their class by spending money.
Liu Jingyi and Zhao Shutang had been classmates since middle school, spanning five or six years of deep friendship. She had full trust in what Zhao Shutang said.
Feeling angry and sympathetic for her friend, Liu Jingyi had given most of her saved pocket money to Zhao Shutang, promising that she would be there no matter what.
Zhao Shutang declined Liu Jingyi's money, treating her to a meal instead, and promised to confide in her about any troubles she faced at home.
After the school started, because of all the negative things Liu Jingyi had heard from Zhao Shutang about her stepmom and stepsister, her impression of Ruan Mian had naturally soured.
She patted Zhao Shutang's shoulder and consoled, "Alright, don't overthink it. We're on the same side, forever."
Zhao Shutang lightly chuckled, "Thank goodness I have you."
Ruan Mian was oblivious to all this, having finished writing half of the physics paper. She rested her arms on the desk and dozed off for a short nap.
In a half-awake state, she felt a presence beside her. She tried to wake up, but her eyelids were as heavy as a ton, and she only managed to flutter them before slipping back into slumber.
Her next awakening was signaled by the school bell.
With today's results just out, and the school rankings not yet published, Ruan Mian remained seated at the back of the classroom. Zhou Hai didn't have time to mention switching seats.
As the back door swung open, a cool breeze swept in, catching Ruan Mian off guard in her just-awakened state, causing her to shiver involuntarily.
However, after this bit of commotion, she was fully awake.
Rubbing her tingling arm, Ruan Mian pondered the first Chinese class of the afternoon. Thoughts churned in her mind, feeling uneasy about the situation. She dreaded the possibility that Zhao Qi might ask her to read her composition aloud in front of everyone during the class.
Just as she was lost in her thoughts, the chair beside her was moved, and a tall figure descended, bringing with him a refreshing scent.
Her arm-rubbing motions gradually slowed as she hesitated whether to speak. In that moment, the boy extended his hand and placed a cup of milk tea on her desk.
Ruan Mian froze.
Chen Yi leaned over and placed another cup on Meng Xinglan's desk. He then took a seat before speaking, "Jiang Rang bought these."
"Oh, thank you," Ruan Mian responded quickly this time, not missing the chance to speak, and then she looked up at him.
That glance ensnared her senses again.
The boy's recently cropped hair lay thin and close to his scalp, devoid of any stray strands. His features became more defined with their sharp angles, and his deep, cool eyes carried a hint of indifference. His brows were well-arched.
The exuberance of youth had receded slightly, replaced by a faint touch of rebellious untamedness.
Chen Yi met her gaze, his thin eyelids creased slightly, and he casually replied, "You're welcome."
As he spoke, Zhao Qi had already entered the classroom. Ruan Mian suppressed her racing heartbeat, reaching for the milk tea and stashing it in the drawer. Absently, she joined the chorus of greetings as the class began.
Perhaps having already dealt with her in the morning, Teacher Zhao didn't trouble Ruan Mian this time. He simply walked over when he caught Ruan Mian daydreaming and tapped her desk, saying, "Pay attention in class."
Ruan Mian's ears turned warm, and she pushed her test paper up a little.
Chen Yi, who had also not been paying attention, turned his head slightly at Teacher Zhao's voice.
The autumn sunlight, fluffy and thin, filtered through the clear glass and cast delicate shadows. Amidst the faint light and shadows, the figure of the girl emerged, delicate and slender.
In truth, she didn't quite resemble the "plain" description Jiang Rang had given. Her skin was fair, her eyes were clear and bright, like shallow pools lit by moonlit fireflies.
Yet, her personality was reserved and reticent. Despite sharing a desk for so long, they hadn't exchanged more than ten sentences.
She was not exactly scared of him, but it wasn't quite like that either. But in the end, what one's personality was like didn't really matter.
Chen Yi flipped open his book, his manner as nonchalant as ever.
Outside the classroom, the sky was swept with winds and streaming clouds. The faint traces left by airplanes as they passed dissolved into wisps upon the wind, fleeting and insubstantial.
By the evening self-study session, the overall rankings for the monthly exam were out.
Chen Yi had a total score of 704, securing the first place in the class and the grade. The second place was held by a girl from the 2nd class, with a score very close to his.
Influenced by Chinese and English, Ruan Mian earned a total score of 621, ranking 46th in the class and exactly 100th in the grade, a position neither high nor low.
After receiving the results, Ruan Mian was called into the office by Zhou Hai. She had signed up for a biology competition at the beginning of the school year, and it was set to start in a few days.
Zhou Hai handed her the admission ticket, saying, "The timing of this competition is just right. It's followed by the sports meet. I heard from the sports committee that you've registered for the 50-meter and 3000-meter events. For the next few days, don't go to training. Focus on revising and aim for a good performance."
Ruan Mian nodded and replied, "Okay, I understand."
Once they finished discussing the competition, Zhou Hai opened up the class ranking list on his desk. "Have you looked at the rankings for this month's exam?"
"Yes, I have."
Zhou Hai looked up. "So, what are your thoughts?"
Ruan Mian thought earnestly for a while. "I seem to have serious issues with certain subjects. My rankings in Chinese and English are both quite low within the top hundred."
"I see. Chinese seems to be your weakest point, and while your English is a bit better, it's still toward the bottom. I called your mother this afternoon. She mentioned that you struggled with certain subjects back at Sixth Middle School. I wanted to ask whether you're not interested in learning or if you're having trouble grasping the concepts."
"I want to learn, but it seems like there's not much point to it after I study," Ruan Mian pursed her lips. "I even attended supplementary classes during the summer break, but the improvement wasn't very noticeable."
"I see..." Zhou Hai sighed, pondered for a moment, and then said, "At the school, there's been a composition supplementary class for the first-year students. It's free of charge. If you're interested, I can sign you up."
Ruan Mian hesitated for a few seconds. "Alright."
"Great, then that's settled. As for English, I'll talk to your English teacher, and see if there are any targeted learning methods we can explore. We'll discuss it later."
"Okay, thank you for your help, Teacher Zhou."
This was only the first monthly exam, yet Ruan Mian had already been called in by the teacher a few times due to her weak performance in certain subjects. As she returned to the classroom, she seemed somewhat listless.
Meng Xinglan took Chen Yi's seat and asked, "What happened? Did Mr. Zhou scold you again?"
"He didn't scold me, but he plans to enroll me in the first-year composition supplementary class," Ruan Mian tucked her competition admission ticket into the drawer. "Did you attend this class when you were in the first year? Did it work?"
"It's so-so. After all, it's not a paid class, and the teachers aren't too strict in their management. We didn't go much during the later periods."
Meng Xinglan leaned closer, "Didn't Teacher Zhao tell Chen Yi to help you in the morning? Why didn't you ask him?"
Pressing her pen, Ruan Mian shook her head. "I didn't dare to ask."
"Never mind then. It's probably better to go to the supplementary class than to rely on him. The bell rang for class. Meng Xinglan stood up, patting her on the shoulder. "Don't worry too much. It's only the first monthly exam. There's plenty of time ahead."
At 9:30 in the night, as the bell signaling the last self-study session rang, the long and busy Monday finally drew to a close.
Upon arriving home, Ruan Mian saw her mother sitting in the living room. It seemed she had been waiting for her. Changing her shoes, she walked over and greeted, "Mom."
Fang Ruqing snapped out of her thoughts, setting down the remote control and looking up at her. "You're back."
"Yep," Ruan Mian picked up an orange from the table and started peeling it. "I heard from Teacher Zhou that he called you this afternoon, right?"
Fang Ruqing nodded. "He told me about your results in this month's exam. He praised you for doing well, but said you had a slight imbalance in certain subjects."
Ruan Mian popped a slice of orange into her mouth, not responding.
Fang Ruqing glanced at her. "How did Shutang do this time?"
"It's okay, a few places higher than me." Ruan Mian lowered her head and spat out a seed.
Fang Ruqing said, "I heard your Uncle Zhao say that Shutang's comprehensive science scores weren't great. Since you're at home during the break, help her out a bit more."
"Heard you." Ruan Mian picked up her school bag. "I have a lot of homework today. I'll head upstairs. No need to bring me milk. I don't feel like drinking it these days."
Back in her room, Ruan Mian took out her competition admission ticket. The exam was scheduled for this Friday. She hadn't mentioned it to Fang Ruqing. On the day of the exam, she left home as usual, took the school bus to the exam center arranged by the school.
This biology competition was organized jointly by Eighth Middle School and a few other prestigious high schools, and the final venue was set at Tenth Middle School, which had two campuses.
These two campuses of Tenth Middle School were separated by just a road. The senior class, playground, cafeteria, and dormitory buildings were on the south side of the road, while the remaining junior and sophomore classes and other office buildings were on the north side. For this competition, Tenth Middle School gave the junior and sophomore classes a day off, freeing up the north campus.
By the time the exam was finished, it was almost noon. Ruan Mian hadn't eaten anything in the morning, and she was now incredibly hungry. After saying goodbye to the supervising teacher, she didn't take the school bus back.
Since the afternoon was a holiday, many people didn't take the bus. While waiting in line at a noodle shop, Ruan Mian noticed that there were only a few people on the bus.
The noodle shop was crowded, and Ruan Mian managed to get her noodles but not a seat. She was about to ask for a takeaway when someone tapped her shoulder from behind.
Turning around, she saw a boy and exclaimed in delight, "Li Zhi!"
Li Zhi reached out to steady her wobbling bowl of noodles and smiled. "What are you doing at our school? Don't you have classes today?"
*Li Zhi in 10th Middle School? If I remember correctly, Li Zhi was in 7th Middle School. Either I'm missing something or the author made a mistake.
"I'm here for the exam, the inter-school biology competition, organized jointly by seven schools," Ruan Mian touched her neck. "I didn't expect your school's cafeteria to be so crowded."
"Because the food in the cafeteria is terrible. Come with me. I have a seat," Li Zhi led her to a corner table where three other boys were already sitting.
Seeing Li Zhi return with a girl, the three boys all had curious expressions. "What's going on, Zhi-ge?"
Li Zhi put the bowl on the table and motioned for Ruan Mian to sit inside. With a faint smile, he said, "Just a younger sister from the neighbor's family. She's here to take an exam at our school. What were you guys thinking?"
Most of the people there were older than Ruan Mian, so it wasn't wrong to call her a younger sister. After exchanging greetings, Ruan Mian ate her noodles while listening to them complain about the heavy workload and pressure of the senior year.
Although Ruan Mian was the first to start eating, she ended up being the last to finish. Li Zhi asked the other three boys to go back first and sat there, playing with his phone, waiting for her to finish. Afterward, he escorted her to the bus stop.
The early autumn breeze was just right, dry and cool. Ruan Mian stood under the shelter, adjusting the zipper on her jacket. "Do you guys really have that much to do in your senior year?"
"Not really, they just have poor grades," Li Zhi put away his phone. "Chen Yi said you had your monthly exam recently, right?"
"Yep," Ruan Mian looked at him. "Your next question wouldn't be about my grades, would it?"
"Why, can't I ask?" Li Zhi leaned against the billboard behind the platform. He was tall and thin, with striking looks and an exceptional aura that made passing girls turn their heads.
"Oh, no, it's just that it seems whenever people hear about exams, the next thing they ask is about the grades, as if there's nothing else to ask."
"So, what do you think can be asked then?"
Ruan Mian pondered for a few seconds. "It does seem like there's nothing else to ask."
Li Zhi pursed his lips and smiled. "With your personality, you'd be a good match as Chen Yi's desk mate."
"..." Ruan Mian didn't feel like telling him that she had been Chen Yi's desk mate for over a month, and their conversations hadn't exceeded ten sentences.
Later, as the bus arrived at the station, Ruan Mian boarded. As the bus turned at the intersection, she caught sight of Li Zhi's tall, thin figure walking back. The sunlight was right ahead, yet he seemed to be bound by something, his absent-minded melancholy and dejection apparent.
The weekend marked the sports meet at Eighth Middle School. The weather was pleasant, with a moderate temperature and no wind—neither too cold nor too hot.
Ruan Mian participated in the 50-meter and 3000-meter events on the same day. As soon as the opening ceremony concluded, the PA system announced that female students would assemble for the 50-meter event, and asked them to get ready.
Meng Xinglan wasn't good at sports, so she didn't participate in any events. Instead, she joined the volunteers and became Ruan Mian's dedicated helper, running back and forth for her throughout the event, almost as if she was taking part in the competition herself.
Today, Ruan Mian wore her sportswear, black and white. She took off her jacket for the 50-meter event, revealing the white T-shirt underneath. After the check-in, she stood by the track and symbolically warmed up by moving her feet. Meng Xinglan stood beside the track, holding Ruan Mian's clothes.
Not only that, almost everyone Meng Xinglan could gather from their class was present, including Chen Yi, who stood at the back of the crowd.
He wore a white baseball cap, its brim lowered, concealing his expression. Only a sharp and distinct jawline was visible, along with a prominent Adam's apple.
Ruan Mian's heart raced.
When she crouched down for the starting position, she closed her eyes briefly before reopening them, focusing on the finish line ahead. Never had there been a moment when she wanted to win more than now.
The gunshot rang in her ears, and Ruan Mian burst out almost uncontrollably. The whistling wind and excited cheers surrounded her.
She raced toward the light, toward the boy hidden in her heart, unstoppable.
- To prevent misunderstandings, I'll clarify that Li Zhi doesn't have romantic feelings for Ruan Mian; he has his own partner. You can find his separate story in the column "Vortex." It's BL-themed; if interested, check it out.
- His romantic storyline doesn't intersect with this story, nor does it affect the romance between Ruan Mian and Chen Yi. He has an independent story of his own.
- Here's the synopsis. Thanks for the support; I'll distribute some red envelopes in this chapter.
// "Vortex" //
Li Zhi's family had a courtyard.
One day in midsummer, a man moved in.
He said his name was Zhou Yi.
But Li Zhi had seen him on TV just yesterday.
Back then, he was called Fang Huailin.
"I can never escape this sweet yet cruel vortex."
*Chatty and persistent bottom x Skilled and seasoned top
*Nine-year age difference / Older love interest / Li Zhi as the bottom
*Synopsis sentences sourced from the internet, subject to deletion.
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